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Phillips concerned about economic growth

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

LEADER of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips says that while he is pleased that the economic reform programme continues to reduce the public debt, he is concerned about economic growth.

“Economic growth continues to lag behind expectations; boasts of 5 in 4 having long been abandoned. Worse, is the fact that Jamaica slipped several places in the ease of doing business rankings,” Dr Phillips noted in his 2019 new year's message.

He said that this has been particularly burdensome for small businesses and new business start-ups, which should be the focus of creating a more inclusive economy.

Turning to crime and violence, the Opposition leader said that the proliferation of violent crime islandwide, and the spread of antisocial behaviour, continues to threaten all Jamaicans.

“Thankfully, the mobilisation of the security forces, albeit too delayed, has brought some relief. Nevertheless, the country still has not been presented with a sustainable plan for crime management and control, and for the overall reform of the criminal justice system while maintaining our hard-won constitutional rights,” he stated.

He said, however, that the most “demoralising” feature of the past year was, perhaps, “the rampant corruption which unhappily has become a major feature of the current national landscape”.

“The Petrojam scandal, with all its many dimensions, is just the latest expression of the abuse of the taxes paid by hard-working Jamaicans by those in authority,” he remarked.

He said that “while thousands of Jamaicans struggle on the margins of society to make ends meet, they are forced to watch vulgar displays of 'Wakanda-style parties', celebrating the extravagant prosperity of a few with 'connections' to those in office.

“Such wanton and lurid displays of the misuse of public funds weakens confidence in our nation's institutions and drains the energy and resolve of our people. Good governance must be rooted in the rule of law and in the protection of the rights and the resources of the people. Government officials must see themselves as being subject to the law, and not as 'breakers' of the law,” he added.

But, he said that as the nation enters 2019 it must draw hope from the vision and aspirations of its founding fathers and mothers.

“Eighty years ago they set out on a mission to build a nation, on the foundations of democracy, the rule of law, and a programme of economic and social development that offered every Jamaican the opportunity for personal progress.

“That mission is still very relevant today, as too many Jamaicans still exist on the margins of the society, denied access to high quality education, forced to rely on run-down and crisis plagued health services, and living in so-called squatter communities with inadequate social services such as roads, water, electricity, etc,” he stated.

He said that the Opposition's commitment is to a programme of economic and social development, that will make Jamaica a country which offers all its people equality of opportunity and social justice, and which is guided by the principles of good governance.

“Despite all the challenges that we face our hope rests on the resilience, tenacity, courage, and good sense of the Jamaican people,” he said.

“As leader of the Opposition, I pledge the continued vigilance and moral courage of the party that I lead to hold the Government accountable as we advocate for a better Jamaican that offers opportunity for all the people and not just a few,” Phillips said.