The first ever signing of a social partnership agreement in Jamaica took place on Wednesday morning, July 31, among the Government, private sector, trade union and civil society groups, at King’s House.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, who signed the Partnership For Jamaica Agreement (PFJ), on behalf of the Government, emphasized that it must work for the country’s sake.
Under the agreement, the groups reaffirm and recommit to the principles of social dialogue and partnership; and resolve to embark on a programme for Jamaica’s stabilization, growth with equity and sustainable development through a social partnership, initially over the period 2013-2016.
Priority areas of focus for the first three years include fiscal consolidation; adherence to the rule of law; ease of doing business; employment creation; and energy diversification and conservation.
The Prime Minister called for concentration on the specific areas of the priorities, and not on the problems facing the country. “Having done so, as members of the Partnership Council, we must then move from signing into action,” she said.
Mrs. Simpson Miller committed that the partners “will be patient with each other but impatient with incompetence, inefficiency and obstruction.”
“We have to be vigilant for Jamaica’s sake. We have to take the required steps toward economic growth and social equity for Jamaica’s sake. We will speak to each other with frankness, but with respect, for Jamaica’s sake. We will engage personal responsibility, discipline and greater adherence to the rule of law, for Jamaica’s sake. This is our country, we have to make it work,” the Prime Minister emphasized.
As Chair of the National Partnership Council, Mrs. Simpson Miller said that the members will continue to inform themselves of the progress in achieving the agreed targets and to hold each other accountable for their part in the process.
She acknowledged the efforts of those before her, including former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who created a foundation on which the current social partnership was built.
In the meantime, President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Christopher Zacca, said that by signing the agreement, the partners are committing to working together to tackle the significant challenges that the nation is currently facing.
He cautioned however, that the agreement cannot be just partnership on paper. “If any member of our broader groupings, whether someone in government, the private sector, the labour unions, or any other group in civil society, chooses to violate the principles and undertakings in the partnership agreement, we must be prepared to criticize and reject their actions,” he said.
Chairman, Professor Alvin Wint, in his opening remarks, noted that the partnership agreement takes as its focus an effort to correct what is wrong with Jamaica. “In so doing, the process of partnership building has sought to generate a national consensus around the areas in which Jamaica is particularly flawed by international standards,” he said.
He informed that the PFJ is modeled on the Barbados Social Partnership Agreement that marked its 20th anniversary earlier this year.
“Our next step here in Jamaica is to begin the process of monitoring the targets within the Agreement and mobilising the country at large to understand how the entire society can play a role in the stabilisation and growth of the Jamaican society,” Professor Wint said.
Youth Advocate, Kemesha Kelly, signed on behalf of the Civil Society; President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, Lloyd Goodleigh, signed on behalf of the labour unions; while Mr. Zacca signed on behalf of the PSOJ.
Among those attending the event were: Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon Sir Patrick Allen and Lady Allen; Former Prime Minister, Bruce Golding; Members of the Cabinet; Mayors and Custodes from across the island; members of private sector organizations, unions and civil society groups, among others.