Jamaican Prime Minister defends his stewardship, announces new housing project

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness at Diaspora Conference - Caribbean National Weekly News

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says government will implement a J$500 million housing program to benefit the poorer section of the population. He made the announcement during his address at  the ruling Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) 75th annual convention in Kingston on Sunday amid suggestions by senior officials that the party should be re-elected to office for a second consecutive term.

Part of HOPE Program

Holness told supporters the housing project will be a part of the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) Program, where young people will be trained and afforded the responsible for building the houses for the poor.

“The Jamaica Labor Party remains committed to ending poverty … social welfare very important,” Holness said, adding that regardless of occupation, people will be able to make their contributions under the program.

He said while more information will be disclosed in the budget debate next year, his administration has, since being elected to office in 2016, done much to stabilize the economy. The economic indicators are pointing in the right direction and there are a number of projects in the pipeline to create more jobs.

“Inflation, lowest; exchange rate, stablised; national reserve, highest in decades. Highest number of people employed in the history of Jamaica. Almost 80,000 jobs created so far,” Holness said.

Disappointed

But the PM also said he was disappointed the wage negotiations between the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the government remain unresolved despite numerous meetings between the parties, and the drawn-out discussion were not benefiting anyone.

Crime down

“You all know that crime is down. We have worked very hard. And at this juncture, I want to thank the police. I want to focus on the police. Much maligned; a lot of bad things have been said about them. But they are good men and women in uniform.

“I have been watching the negotiations with the police and I am very concerned. I want these men and women to know that I am sympathetic. That we have your interest at heart. We are doing the best we can. And I am asking the minister of finance to increase his efforts to bring this matter to a close,” Holness told the JLP supporters.

“We want our policemen and women to be happy in service,” he said, adding that the government was very careful with its economic program.

The JCF has in the past rejected several offers made by the government even as 80 per cent of public-sector workers have already signed a four-year wage deal.

Deserves second 5-year term

Meanwhile, senior party officials were singing the praises of the JLP at the convention held at the National Arena with the Minister of Industry, Investment , Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Audley Shaw, saying the JLP should be given a second five-year term in office.

“I know we are at midterm, but I already feel that victory is in the air for the Jamaica Labor Party. It’s time for a second term,” Shaw told supporters, adding that the present administration has delivered on the economy and the promise of job creation.

He said workers now have a better deal with the implementation of the J$1.5 million tax threshold benefit and that the Holness administration was responsible for the creation of more than 80,000 new jobs in the Jamaican economy, citing a 4.4 percent decline in unemployment since the JLP took office.

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