KINGSTON, Jamaica, November 19, 2018 (CMC) – Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, says his government will implement a J$500 million housing program to benefit the poorer section of the population, as the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) held its 75th annual convention, here, yesterday, amid suggestions, by senior officials, that the party should be re-elected to office for a second consecutive term.
Holness told supporters that 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 responsibility for building houses for the poor.
“The Jamaica Labour 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 stablise the economy.
He noted that the economic indicators are pointing in the right direction and that there are a number of projects, in the pipeline, to create more jobs.
“Inflation, lowest exchange rate, stabilised, national reserve, highest in decades; highest number of people employed in the history of Jamaica — almost 80,000 jobs created so far,” Holness said.
But Prime Minister Holness said that he was disappointed that the wage negotiations, between the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the government, remain unresolved, despite numerous meetings between the parties.
He said the drawn-out discussion was not benefiting anyone.
“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.
But he said that it is unlikely that his administration would bow to demands for higher wages, insisting that the government had to be sensible about fiscal discipline.
“We want our policemen and women to be happy in service,” he said, adding that the government was very careful with its economic program.
Holness told supporters that with the new thrust of fiscal discipline, all stakeholders should bear that in mind, when they approach the negotiation table.
The JCF has, in the past, rejected several offers made by the government, even as 80 percent of public-sector workers have already signed a four-year wage deal.
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 Labour 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.
He said the result was a 4.4 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate, since the administration took office.
“People are getting work all over the place. Jamaicans are happy,” Shaw said, adding that there were plans afoot to further develop the sugar industry.
JLP Deputy Leader, Desmond McKenzie, called on supporters to go public with the achievements of the party, since it came to power two years ago.
“The party has made good strides and they should not be ashamed to tell the Jamaican public, at large, about the party’s achievements. In the hands of the Jamaica Labour Party, in the hands of Andrew Holness, the country is safe,” noted McKenzie, who is also the Local Government Minister.