KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC - Against the background of a struggling economy, concerns about unemployment and reports of dissention within the party President of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) and Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller sought to clear the air on the state of the economy, nation building, employment and her style of leadership .
In an address to thousands of supporters who packed the National Arena in the corporate area on Sunday afternoon , Simpson Miller took the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to task about the progress of talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) .
The party leader reminded her supporters that when the PNP assumed office in December, there was no agreement to build on with the IMF. She also blamed the previous administration for the current financial crisis.
However, while unable to say when an agreement would be reached with the lending agency Simpson Miller said every effort is being made to complete negotiations as soon as possible
“Every negotiation is a process, it is a delicate process and that takes time. It is difficult to provide a definitive date for an IMF agreement (but) I can tell you that it is critical to improving investor confidence , it is also important to unlocking hundreds of millions of dollars needed to retain our Net International Reserves and to keep our dollar stable. If we do not take steps now , our circumstances will get worse, we have to make difficult choices in order to have a better Jamaica. We will be balancing books while balancing people’s lives”
In what was her first address since taking over the reigns of Government following last December’s general election, Simpson Miller also called on private sector interests to partner with the government to make positive changes to the lives of Jamaicans.
The Prime Minister asserted that the Government is doing its part with the improvement of social issues such as housing water and employment .
Concerning unemployment, she promised to roll out phase two of the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP).
“Unemployment is far from where the party wants it to be. This government is determined to reduce unemployment, we did it before and we will do it again, that’s why we have established the JEEP, we are encouraging investment ….today JEEP has employed over 15 thousand persons across all parishes. We are now getting ready to roll out phase two of JEEP - to place 35-40 thousand more people to work .
In a speech punctuated with the phrase “More work. less talk” – an obvious jab at reference to criticisms that she has not been vocal enough on issues of national importance, the party leader said her administration is developing a climate change policy with support from international partners.
Meanwhile, Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson who also addressed the gathering, implored the current government to remain in touch with those who voted them into office nine months ago.
“We must not hide from the people,” said Patterson. “When we were seeking their votes, we went and looked for them, don’t let them have to come and look for us now…. time for the merriment is over and we have to now face the harsh realities.”
"I want to warn: Now that we are in power we have to make sure that we don't do what the (Jamaica) Labour Party did and become arrogant and distant from the people," Patterson said.
Patterson also stated that it is time for the Queen to be removed as Jamaica’s Head of State and for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to be established in its appellate jurisdiction.
“We can’t have a situation where a case is before the Privy Council and we have to apply for a visa to get in there…. not to mention the exorbitant costs involved.
We have paid for the Caribbean Court already, so it will not cost us one cent more, we have to make use of the top quality judges who preside over that court”
He also had words of encouragement for Simpson Miller.
"I know it is a very lonely road, I have been there…make sure there is a little oil in the lamp to keep it burning," he said.