Another page in the annals of our nation’s history is being written today. Any review of the period leading up to this time, will see a people determinedly pursuing the path to social, economic and spiritual development. As we do this, we must remind ourselves that we celebrate this moment, our forty-second anniversary of Independence, and our walk along our path of development, because persons with vision cared enough, not only to dream but to pursue and follow through to the realisation of their dreams, in order to make the lives of their fellow countrymen more comfortable and more harmonious.
As a people we have held our own in every aspect of life where we are given an opportunity to serve, nationally and internationally. We provided the world with one of the best tropical dairy cows; with that refreshing citrus fruit, the ortanique; with a music form, Reggae, which has captivated millions; with additions to international cuisine, through such enticing treats as “jerk” and our Blue Mountain Coffee.
During the period since our last celebration of Independence, we have added chapters with more success stories to the annals, as we continue to show the world that we are a country to be reckoned with in spite of our size. It is rewarding to note that we continue to make great strides in science and technology; that our reputation as a prime tourism destination continues to be cemented; our athletes continue to do well we continue to hear success stories of the great achievements of our sons and, daughters on the national and international platforms.
Yes, there have been challenges; we cannot ignore this fact. There have been threats to our economic growth. As the impact of globalisation continues to remove more barriers around the world and the movement of skills and capital among countries become easier, the competitive challenges posed for countries such as Jamaica become greater.
The Government continues to dedicate a large portion of its national budget to education and to technology. The impact of this is challenged by the gap between the advancements of the developed world and the third world, which continues to widen, making it difficult to catch up.
However, our economy is starting to improve and any threat to our economic progress and viability must be seen as opportunities to become creative in using the assets that we possess and competitively seeking our place in the global markets. For example, our talents in music, entertainment and sports are well recognised, but we must look creatively, at new and better marketing. Our beautiful island offers one of the best tourist destinations therefore we need to concentrate on keeping our environment clean and attractive. Our people are renowned for a high quality of hospitality and other services that we offer the world, so we must continue to train and develop our skills and to provide even better service to Jamaica.
Short-sighted individuals have sought to take away our peace and belief in ourselves as a great and caring set of people, through selfish acts, which have manifested themselves in random acts of violence.
Also, we seem to be greatly influenced by the morbid events that occur daily all over the world and we often wonder whether there is a deliberate and definitive attempt by the leaders of the world to chart the course of their endeavours to establish the climate for peace and development.
Intellectually, the world travels in leaps and bounds. The internet provides us with the knowledge and the authority to excel but it also means that in split seconds the sordid events of one part of the world reaches everywhere and we wonder whether this great energy available is being used creatively to make living conditions better or whether we are using the forces available for destruction.
There are those challenges but we also cannot ignore our responsibilities to be productive citizens, driven by a desire to have a fair and just society. The scourge of AIDS and poverty continues but must be eradicated. We must have a collective response to threats to our welfare as fundamental to the privilege of enjoying life in this or any other society.
We must move forward with sound leadership at all levels and calm nerves. Whatever the outcome of the fight against terrorism, we must not lose the vision of a prosperous and a safe society for all.
In as much as we are experiencing moments of anxiety as we become aware of the incidents that bring pain and suffering, we cannot deny that we have had some exhilarating moments during the last year.
We are a nation in transition. We must continue to put aside mediocrity and sub-standard work and products. We must, after forty-two years of Independence, shrug off the psychological trap of viewing ourselves as third world.
Let us commit ourselves to economic growth as the vehicle to propel us forward towards our first world objectives and status.
There will be hiccups and obstacles along the way but these are the growing pains, common to the development of a child from puberty to adulthood. These growing pains must not impede our forward march towards the long overdue progress that this nation is capable of achieving.
I am reminded of the words of one of the world’s greatest leaders – “Success is moving from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” If we look at success, and indeed failure in this light, both at the individual and national levels, admit our mistakes and move forward with courage and determination to correct the wrongs, we will take a giant step towards achieving our dreams for our country.
The experiences of the past generations of achievers have built the foundation upon which we can now move forward with confidence to a brighter future. Let us work together so that future generations will say of us that we left them a legacy of creativity and productivity on which they can continue to build a strong and successful nation.
Let us use the occasion of our independence to chart a new beginning. We must be prepared to make our own sacrifices, supported by good vision and hard work. We must make a commitment, within ourselves, to make a difference in our little corners for the common good of all, and allow the rippling effect that this can have to permeate our society. Jamaica will be on the highway to the first world before long and take her rightful place among the leading nations of the world.