2008 New Year’s Message From The Hon Bruce Golding M.P. Prime Minister Of Jamaica

The beginning of a new year brings with it renewed hope and recharged expectations. As individuals, we reflect on how well we did last year and where we did not do so well. We focus our minds on what we must do to make this a better year than last year. For a nation it is no different.

2007 was an eventful year. There was the staging of Cricket World Cup. There were elections at both the Parliamentary and Local Government levels which saw a change of government for the first time in more than 18 years. Our athletes and the Sunshine Girls did us proud. A number of new hotels commenced construction or started operations and tourist arrivals, although declining for the first 9 months, rebounded well with new energetic promotional activity and this winter season promises to be one of our best ever. We successfully concluded, along with our CARICOM partners, an Economic Partnership Agreement with Europe which provides new opportunities for economic development.

But it was a year of mixed fortunes and we encountered many problems. We were plagued with the outbreak of malaria, dengue fever and leptospirosis which, thankfully, we have now been able to contain. We were hit by Hurricane Dean which wreaked havoc in many parts of the island and this was followed by three months of persistent heavy rains that brought more damage and distress.

For most of the year there was pressure on the exchange rate and we experienced a 6% depreciation which we have only recently been able to stabilize. We had to contend with a 50% increase in the price of oil – the largest increase the world has seen in over 30 years – and this has driven up the cost of electricity, gasoline and fertilizers. And then there were significant increases in the cost of vital commodities such as wheat and corn which reached record levels and this has pushed up the price of flour, bread, cornmeal, chicken feed, chicken meat and a whole range of basic necessities, putting pressure on the cost of living, especially for the poor.

There are worrying signs that the world is heading into a global recession and this is bound to have a further negative effect on our economy.

We are not alone in this. Countries all over the world, especially developing countries, are wrestling with the same problems – problems that are beyond their control but to which they must respond.

But the greatest problem we faced in 2007, as we did the year before and for years before that, was the high crime rate – the violence and the killings that have made so many of our people frightened, scared and angry. These are the problems that tested us in 2007. They are the challenges that confront us in 2008.

And as we begin the new year, as we prepare ourselves to face these challenges, I call on all Jamaicans of goodwill who love their country and who share my belief that we can overcome these challenges, that we have it within us to make Jamaica the best country on the planet Earth – I call on all of you to unite, to join hands, to resolve to play your part in making 2008 a year of triumph over adversity, a year of victory despite the whirlwind of uncertainty, a year in which our people will enjoy a better life.

Let us make a fresh start.

We have signaled that fresh start. In keeping with the commitments we made prior to the election, we are introducing a raft of measures to transform our system of governance:

  • Giving more authority to the Parliamentary Opposition because they play an important role in our framework for good governance and if we cannot work together as leaders we cannot expect to work together as a people;
  • Giving greater freedom to the Press because it is through them that we in authority are held accountable;
  • Strengthening and protecting the rights of ordinary citizens because the power belongs not to us but to them;
  • Stamping out corruption because corruption and prosperity for all do not go together.

We are making a fresh start!

The new Police Commissioner has signaled a fresh start in dealing with crime. He has the full support of the Government and we will be giving priority to providing the resources that he will need to defeat the criminals and make Jamaica safe again. But it can’t be done without your help. Some of you out there hold the key to rooting out crime. You continue to be the missing link. Many of you know enough that if you were to come forward and assist the Police, we would be able to find the guns, round up the criminals, secure their conviction, put them away and make Jamaica safe once again.

Come forward! We need your help! Take a stand! Let’s make a fresh start!

I have said over and over that our ultimate success will require jobs, jobs and more jobs. Too many of our young people are wasting away, willing to work but not able to find work. Investments and job-creating investments will be one of our major priorities for 2008. We are already in negotiations with potential new investors and a number of exciting new projects will be announced shortly. Education and training will be an important part of our focus because the jobs that will be created in this technologically-driven age will require skills which our young people must have.

At the same time, we recognize that small, micro and medium size enterprises represent the best means of creating new jobs within the shortest possible time. Several new initiatives will be introduced in the new financial year to facilitate start-ups and expansion in these sectors.

At the last sitting of Parliament I announced that we had earmarked $500 million to help cushion the effects of recent price increases. The details are being worked out, discussions will be held with the Opposition and it is expected that Cabinet will receive the final proposals within the next few days.

But I must speak to an issue which underlies all our efforts and considerations. Our fortunes for 2008 will depend to a great extent on ourselves – every single one of us – how we conduct ourselves, how we behave toward each other, how we live as a community, how we avoid or resolve our disputes, how we bring up our children.

We have a choice. We can either be part of the problem of 2008 or we can make ourselves part of the solution for 2008.

Some years ago, the then Prime Minister, the Most Hon. P.J. Patterson introduced the Values & Attitudes programme, recognizing that dysfunctional behaviour was an impediment to growth and development. The Most Hon. Edward Seaga spoke about the need for character education, and Education Minister, Andrew Holness, is about to launch a Parenting Commission.

These all speak to a critical social deficit which is rooted in the breakdown of the family structure. For, although our schools and churches serve to reinforce basic concepts and values, it is within the family that these concepts and values are formed and nurtured. It is there that behaviour is inculcated; it is there that the values of love and tolerance and respect are instilled.

Build better families and we build better homes. Build better homes and we build better communities. Build better communities and we build a better nation.

We have to make a fresh start to rebuild the family unit as the cradle of an orderly society that is serious about growth and development, serious about creating a better life. We must do this to redeem our young males, to give new purpose to young lives, to ensure that our children are brought up properly and do well in school, to minimize conflicts and resolve those conflicts when they occur, to keep our surroundings clean because our homes are kept clean.

We intend this year to mount a partnership with civic bodies, community-based organizations, churches, schools and patriotic individuals to launch a national thrust focusing on the family, emphasizing the responsibility of the family, training and strengthening weak family units. It will be a national crusade in which the relevant Government agencies will be engaged in partnership with civil society.

And in making this fresh start, let’s prepare ourselves for the changes that must come. For we can’t start afresh to do the same things in the same old way. Changes must come and in effecting those changes there are tough decisions that will have to be made which may not, in all cases, be popular. But some things have to stop and be stopped.

We have to make a fresh start!

As I lead this nation into the New Year filled with all its challenges and uncertainties, I feel a sense of hope, a sense of courage and a sense of determination. As His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie declared to the United Nations in October 1963 “We know that we shall win, for we are confident in the victory of good over evil”.

The vast majority of us Jamaicans are good people. Rise up, I say! Rise up and take your place! Let’s make Jamaica God’s little kingdom on this earth! Let’s make a fresh start for 2008 and beyond.