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JM | Sep 19, 2022

Mark Golding | Full time that we build hope again

/ Our Today

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Mark Golding addressing the 84 PNP Annual Conference at the National Arena on Sunday (September 18).

The following is the text of the address by Mark Golding, president of the People’s National Party, at the party’s 84th Annual Conference held at the National Arena on September 18.

We are at the 84th People’s National Party Conference, in this Jamaica’s 60th year of Independence. Comrades – let this sink in – time come…full time…for us to build the Jamaican dream. A dream around a quality of life that gives all Jamaican people access to the resources of our nation. A powerful vision of full opportunity to contribute to building our society and expanding our economy.

Our Jamaican dream must mean decent living for all. It means ordinary people living a good quality of life. That is what the PNP believes in. That is what we will work to bring to Jamaica! Time come!

Time Come to instil hope and purpose in our national life, rather than a life that leaves us ‘crass, angry, miserable’

….. Full time! Full time that we build hope again, instead of despair.

The government promised prosperity, but we have seen that it is prosperity for just a few! Cdes, ‘It nuh pretty out deh’! When the artiste Shane O says “lights out”, and that he is alone in a dark room, in many ways it reflects the state of despair in our nation. The most grave symptom of this despair is the rate of violence in the nation.

With the PNP at 84 and Jamaica at 60, let us ask ourselves, what is it the Party and the country are looking for from the PNP leadership?

As President of the PNP, standing on the broad shoulders of those who came before me, my vision is one of hope for our beloved Jamaica. We must fix the social, cultural and economic structures of our country. We will govern Jamaica in a way that empowers Jamaicans to help themselves; to grow and thrive. We cannot miss the Mark.

But I must admit, I worry. I worry about where this country is heading on its current path. There is so much trouble in our land. Exclusion and alienation! Discrimination and victimisation!

Time come to ‘draw brakes’ on that. The work of our political Party, the People’s National Party, must be to rebuild a positive outlook of hope in this country. We will do this by implementing policies and programmes that give life to our core beliefs in equality and social justice in this land. We will build an inclusive and loving Jamaica. A Jamaica where no-one is treated as any less because of their colour, their language, their financial position, their background or where they live.

I want you to listen to me carefully. Some who benefit from things the way they are, are comfortable with that. They have no interest in tackling the challenging task of progressive change. That is why they support the status quo; things staying the same; they are alright with that.

But this People’s National Party cannot support things remaining as they are now….in fact, no well-thinking Jamaican can fight against positive fundamental change. Time Come for a new Jamaica, a land of peace and love!

The Jamaica Labour Party received the support of 21 per cent of the electorate in the last general election, so in a real sense they are a minority government. They are a government that is increasingly associated with failing the people.

Their election promise was prosperity – they promised five per cent growth in four years (“5 in 4”). But over that period, from 2016 through to the start of the pandemic in 2020, growth was stagnant. Time come to call it what it is – an illusion! An abject failure!

Do not forget. They also promised we could sleep with our windows open. But with one of the highest murder rates in the entire world, Jamaicans are living in insecurity, corruption, violence and fear. Ninety three per cent of Jamaicans have lost faith in the government’s crime fighting activities and management.

People are afraid to go out. Hanging out on your endz is a risk to your life. A strange face is viewed with suspicion and approached with extreme caution.

And then there is the stench of corruption in high and low places.

The majority of Jamaicans, over 55 per cent, categorically see this government as the most corrupt; and that includes a large number of the government’s supporters! Let that sink in.

It is the result of the unprecedented torrent of scandals under Andrew Holness’s leadership. The long list of scandal after scandal involving taxpayers’ money. So much has been left unanswered. The Jamaican people simply cannot trust this government.

We don’t know what to believe when they talk. First, they told us that the Innswood Sugar Lands were slated for mega private sector agricultural development. Then we hear that these prime agricultural lands are now slated for housing development. Then when the public vex, they backtrack, bob and weave. What must the people believe?

This Government does not want anybody to challenge them. They want Jamaican people to accept at face value everything they tell us, without question. They say they don’t want us to bring out and pressure the things that are going wrong, when that is our role and responsibility as the constitutional opposition. We will not back down from defending what is right for the Jamaican people.

Somebody needs to sit this Prime Minister down and teach him what it means to live in a democracy. From making their Senators sign undated letters of resignation, to NIDS, to the appointment of a new Cabinet Secretary, he continues to violate the Constitution. It is anti-democratic and dangerous.

There is growing political apathy in Jamaica. There is a general distrust in the motives and methods of government. This distrust leads to cynicism. It undermines our national spirit and our hope for the future.

That is why integrity must be at the centre of governance, so that public trust confidence must be rebuilt. Things must change. Time come.

The change cannot be led by a government with a track record of blatant scraping of the people’s resources. It can only be achieved by an authentic and consistent commitment to honest governance. Clean hands and a clean heart are what will bring the change we need!

I am for consensus building. I am for respectful consultation and reasoning! No government badness and bullying the people! Fulsome engagement is critical to our democracy. Participatory democracy is a core principle of our party. We have the structures to practice what we preach.

And Jamaica, we cannot be afraid to discuss and participate in politics, not just “stand aside and look”.

It has been said that “Politics is everything, and everything is politics”. It is the means to change the system and build a better society.

Time come to mek politics nice again. We must get involved in the affairs of our country, and make demands for change. Organise yourselves in your communities, schools, workplaces and civic organisations. We all must vote in our democratic elections, and then hold our leaders to account. If we want Jamaica to be better, we must ask questions; we must call out incompetence, dishonesty and failure; we must call out disinformation and dishonest spin.

And, when you are ready, the PNP welcomes everyone who wants to see a Jamaica that is good for all our people. Come, join our national progressive alliance for transformation. That, Brothers and Sisters across Jamaica, is the reason I am here – to lead this great and noble party in the creation of a better society for us all.

Cushioning the Crisis

We have come through a two-year global pandemic. It has resulted in severe economic dislocation. The Jamaican economy has not yet recovered the lost ground. And now we are also living through a time of harsh global inflation, and a time of war.

Prices of basic necessities – food, electricity, transportation, medication – have risen above and beyond people’s incomes; and continue to rise week in, week out. We have seen continued increases in the prices of chicken, rice, flour, bread, cooking oil, corned beef; and not to mention saltfish, which is now a luxury item. At $240, a patty costs more than an hour’s labour at the minimum wage! People are struggling to survive.

As basic conditions of life worsen for most Jamaicans, there is a critical need for the government to cushion the crisis. The thing that is now on everybody’s mind now is their very survival. But the Government is failing the people.

I firmly believe in fiscal discipline and sound economic management. I was part of the last PNP administration that put Jamaica on a sustainable fiscal path for the future. Working closely with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Dr Peter Phillips as Finance Minister, I managed the legislation that implemented the many structural reforms of that vital period. Those reforms have increased revenues and grown the fiscal space; they have brought the public debt down from the edge of the precipice where we inherited it in 2012.

We are proud of that important legacy of achievement, and I will never let the country’s public finances go off track.

But I also know in a time of deep crisis a government must respond and protect the people. That is the purpose of government. Policy must fit the needs of the moment in which we find ourselves. And at this time, the people need a caring government that will cushion the crisis and help them ride out the storm.

That is why the PNP says that the government must cushion the crisis. It should provide at least J$40 billion, or about 2.0 per cent of GDP, to provide vulnerable Jamaicans with a more adequate programme of support, and fund it by slowing the pace of debt reduction until this crisis has passed.

This money is not for topsy-turvy birthday cakes and champagne parties; it is not for bloated overseas trips and international publicity campaigns for failed attempts to support private ambitions. It is not to build entrance signs to a town at a cost of millions of dollars per letter.

The money is not for sleazy nepotism and cronyism, srcaping public resources into the pockets of politicians and their friends. No way.

We would be strengthening programmes for vulnerable members of our society – families on PATH, NIS pensioners and persons on poor relief, and female-headed households struggling to survive.

We would be supporting small farmers so that they can produce food to feed the nation and reduce wasteful food imports.

We would be giving transport operators and motorists a break and reduce transport costs by capping the ad valorem gas tax at the budgeted oil price of US$67.50 per barrel.

We would remove the oil hedge tax, which is not being used for its intended purpose of protecting Jamaicans as insurance against high oil prices, or we would reallocate it to help low-income households cover the expenses of regularising their electricity connections and to go solar to reduce their light bills.

We would assist the many small businesses that are going under, as they face higher interest rates and consumers with less and less disposable income.

These are strategic investments in the Jamaican people, and the society as a whole, in a time of crisis.

So when you hear me say cushion the crisis, it is not just about how we live in the present; it is also about how we prepare for the future. We must protect our society today, to ensure a better and stronger tomorrow. It will help the economy to recover from the pandemic recession, and generate more revenues to resume the path of debt reduction.

The People’s National Party is focussed on our national survival, as this is a time where survival is under threat. How else can we help Jamaicans to survive?

The pressure on families is hard, especially those on low, fixed wages that are being ravaged by inflation. The minimum wage of $9,000 is already too low. It was a minor increase of $2,000 after four years, and this year’s price increases have wiped it out. It must be increased to a liveable wage, reviewed annually to account for inflation.

Comrades of the PNP, it is important that we remember why the Party was founded in the first place, after the 1938 labour uprising. We recognised then, as we do now, that the party must be an organisation of the democratic progressive left, in order to shape and steer a society based on principles of equality and social justice. We are here to prioritise the needs of the people.

The party was founded as the political movement against colonialism, and after 84 years we are still doing the work of decolonisation. Time come to get over our colonial relationship with the British Crown. We embrace the movement for reparatory justice, because we do not forget our past, and the impact of the injustices of slavery is still with us.

Time come for the Jamaican people to believe in who we are, and to know where our real interests lie. We believe in greater Caribbean cooperation, integration and solidarity. Our region shares a common history and many common challenges. Working together, we will achieve much more progress for our people than if we try to go it alone. The region is making strides in promoting food security and new transportation linkages, but Jamaica is missing in action.

I wish to recognise our sister parties from the region who have honoured us with their presence at this Conference. The PNP in government will be a leading force for greater Caribbean solidarity and collective progress.

In the 1960s, the then government was telling people to round up Rastafarians and trim them and turn them over to the police. They imposed 18 months mandatory imprisonment for possession of a draw of ganja. They banned progressive books, and even drove the great progressive historian Dr Walter Rodney from Jamaica. There were places and positions in Jamaica from which the majority of Jamaicans were effectively excluded, because no fundamental change to the colonial structures and mindset had yet come with independence.

Jamaica changed fundamentally in the 1970s because of the efforts of the Peoples National Party. The people were lifted up at that time, because of the progressive politics of the PNP. This can never be honestly denied. It is patently clear in all the legislation and programmes that the Party enacted and implemented to support women, children, workers, students, the elderly and small businesses. Most importantly, black people in Jamaica, for the first time in our history, were treated as first-class citizens in their homeland. It was a period of great social advancement.

That era was over forty years ago. Since I became President of the PNP, I have been thinking hard about the role of the Party in developing Jamaica in this 21st Century. While Michael Manley told us he was ‘never, ever, committed to labelsprogressive policies that put the people at the centre of development have always been at the core of the PNP’s belief system, even in times of economic pressure when the fiscal space for manoeuvre was very limited.

Let me be very clear – the masses of the people are always better off with the policies and programmes of progressive politics. Without fear of contradiction, I say that the PNP is the Party which has done the most to advance the interest of ordinary Jamaicans.

Upon the PNP’s return to power, we will govern in the interests of all Jamaicans – while placing great emphasis, without apology, on those who have been excluded and denied opportunities for their advancement.

Status quo politics cannot deliver progress for the Jamaican people. Progressive Politics, fundamental to the PNP’s belief system, will never change; certainly not under my leadership. That is why I appointed Professor Anthony Bogues to chair our Policy & Vision Commission.

He and his team spent over a year consulting, reflecting and refining a philosophical restatement of our aims and objectives as a political movement, in modern terms that are consistent with and build on our democratic socialist tradition. They have now completed their work. Their report was presented to and approved at the two-day meeting of our National Executive Council in July, and it has been considered, discussed, ratified and embraced by the delegates of the Party at the private session of this our 84th Annual Party Conference.

Our Party now has a clear and inspirational philosophical framework from which our policies and programmes for when we return to government are being developed, refined and implemented. The clear mission is to focus on the Quality of Life of Jamaican people, and building a more equitable society.

I will outline now, for the Jamaican people, some of the key pillars of what the PNP believes:

We believe the function and responsibility of government is to intervene on the side of the collective good of the Jamaican people. While market forces have an important economic function, the interests of the majority of our people are not served when market forces are dogmatically treated as sole and paramount in determining our well-being.

The PNP believes that progressive politics is the politics for the people. The PNP is a mass democratic party of the democratic left. This simply means that:

– The PNP stands for the social and economic transformation of Jamaican society. We must fix the social structures that impede people’s chances to positively transform their lives and fulfil their dreams

–  We believe in social equality and aim to eliminate all class, racial, colour and gender divides in our society.

–  We must build a more just, inclusive and democratic society

–  We respect and protect social and human rights, based on principles of mutual respect and love for each other

–  We are for self-reliance and economic independence within a regionalist frame, so that we are not dependent on others for what we can effectively do for ourselves and so that we can build Caribbean unity and collective regional action for sustainable development

–  Recognising the long history of racial slavery and colonialism of the country, and our own efforts to improve ourselves like through the Garvey movement, the PNP stands for Reparatory Justice.

–  We believe in environmentally sustainable development, that does not mortgage future generations by selfish practices today.

My brothers and sisters, no one chooses the life we are born into. But we all choose how we use our talents and what God has blessed us with. Every single one of us has to decide where we stand, and how we will contribute to our society, as no man is an island and no man stands alone.

We have to decide whether we will defend the status quo, or whether we are ready to face our real problems and fix them. I embrace the collective interests of all well-thinking Jamaicans in a united spirit of nation-building; but my focus and intent are to defend and uplift the struggling, the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised in our society. They are who I fight for; they are why I stand here with you today.

By our principles in the PNP, they will know us. The delegates of this party are here because we stand unified by the philosophy and ideals of the PNP that have guided us from the past, empower us in the present, and lead us into the future. We know where we are going!

The PNP is the party that gave the nation its first female Prime Minister. It is because we believe in believe in equality; we believe in the strength of a woman. We should not forget why the people will always love Portia. It is because Portia loves the people. As a leader, she was always sensitive to their needs. She worked hard to cushion their crises. Remember eloquent way she taught us to “balance the books while balancing people’s lives”.

For most of the history of this island, power has been used by those in authority to disempower the people. But the PNP the party of empowering our people. That’s why we believe in education.

Education has always been the business of our party because we recognise that education is a way to open up possibilities. It is the only way to address inequality and make real progress as a nation. But Jamaica is enduring a great crisis in education, with large percentages of our students passing through the system without achieving the basic threshold of five subjects including maths and English.

Time come to fix the educational system. Starting with early childhood and primary levels, we will transform the first eleven years of every Jamaican child’s life. We will make the investments required to raise the standard of our early childhood and primary schools. We will make them world class.

The positive effect on our society of achieving our goal of having all our children entering secondary school able to read, write, do basic arithmetic and think critically, cannot be surpassed. It is the key to national progress.

Education is the antidote to inter-generational poverty, and tertiary education must be accessible to those who need it most, so that they can positively transform their prospects in life.

Time come – we will eliminate the requirement of a guarantor for a student to access a student loan; we will cap the student loan borrower’s loan payments at a manageable percentage of his or her income, so that the State, not the student, bears the risk of the economy generating adequate employment opportunities; in periods of unemployment, we will suspend loan payments and tack them onto the back end of the loan, without penalties.

HEART has been stuck in the Prime Minister’s all-encompassing super-ministry. It has been neglected and lost its way, plagued by mismanagement and allegations of corruption. We even heard recently that Jamaica has to be importing construction workers. That is a shameful situation, when we have over 700,000 adults in Jamaica who are not in the Labour Force and don’t even count as unemployed.

We will invest in relevant training to create a skilled and certified work force, so that we can attract the investment that provides decent work. We will give our young people a chance to live well, and not limit them to low paying jobs and limited possibilities for advancement. And as part of our national progressive alliance, we will work closely with old and new industries to tailor our training offerings to meet the evolving needs of the economy.

The pace at which our teachers, nurses and other skilled professionals are leaving Jamaica is a national crisis. We are ranked #2 in the world for human flight and brain drain.

While our people must remain free to take advantage of opportunities for self-advancement abroad, we must create an environment here at home so that our professionals feel respected, comfortable and will want to stay, and where those who do leave will have a reason to come back home in due course.

This requires creative thinking, which this government sadly lacks. Our spokesperson for Education and Training, Senator Damion Crawford, has recognises that need. He has proposed that teachers get student debt reductions, and motor vehicle concessions which increase with years of service, enhanced access to NHT loans, and priority in housing allocations in NHT-financed schemes. He has suggested a package deal to be negotiated by the government to provide our teachers with free internet service as a tool of trade.

Time come to take the affairs of all our critical public sector professionals and workers beyond the stage of tense and hostile wage negotiations, where they feel disrespected and taken for granted. The PNP had to fix the industrial relations climate when they broke it before. We will do it again.

We in the PNP are on a noble mission to improve the lives of the majority group of our people who remain “over-represented in poverty and under- represented in income, wealth, status and acceptance”.

Time come to build cohesive, balanced and caring society, with people- centred policies that enhance human development and create opportunities for self-development. This is the key to high levels of sustainable growth and a good quality of life in Jamaica.

Where do we start?

Using the Rural Electrification Programme of the 1970s as an example, we will intensify the thrust to bringing broadband internet to every household in Jamaica.

It will create new vistas of opportunity for our people. Jamaicans at home will be able to earn from jobs based abroad. Entrepreneurs will be able to market and distribute their goods and services via online platforms and related logistics solutions. Opportunities in education will be opened up to Jamaicans from institutions of learning all over the world. The expansion of digital channels is the way of the present and the future, and Jamaica will not be left behind.

We began the thrust to make Jamaica a global logistics hub, and we will see it through to its full potential. We understand the need for a business-friendly commercial architecture to allow commerce to thrive, and we know how to get it done. We developed and passed the Special Economic Zones legislation, to support value-added investment leveraging our ports and logistics infrastructure. We supported it with modern insolvency legislation for secured credit finance and the rehabilitation of businesses facing financial difficulties.

Very little has happened over the past six years to improve the ease of doing business in Jamaica. Time come to step up the pace and unleash the potential of Jamaican entrepreneurial spirit.

Our mission is to ensure the inclusion of all Jamaicans in economic development. We will remove the obstacles from out of their way. Jamaicans need an economy that works for them. We will get rid of outdated rules and requirements. We will not let bureaucracy stifle progress in business. The PNP is the party of business for every Jamaican entrepreneur who has the energy, drive and ideas to crate wealth for themselves, their families and our economy.

Food security is becoming a critical challenge of the 21st Century. In Jamaica, as agriculture remains significantly underdeveloped. A majority of Jamaicans are food insecure, meaning that they do not eat a healthy, balanced diet, and it is reflected in our high levels of hypertension, diabetes and renal failure.

Food security is about survival in an increasingly stressed and uncertain world. With global warming, changing climate, geo-political turmoil and unreliable supply chains, self-reliance is of critical importance.

The agricultural sector contributed 22 per cent of employment in the 1990s but is now down to 15 per cent. We import over US$1 billion of food annually, a good portion of which can and should be produced here.

Jamaica is a society marked by high levels of inequality, with 10 per cent of the population owning over 60 per cent of the nation’s resources. Women are poorer than men because of where they are situated in the economy, and the responsibilities they assume for our children.

A major expansion of agriculture will be a key part of our strategy to correct our lopsided economy. Agriculture doesn’t just employ people. When farmers are empowered to be productive, they have a good quality of life, there is stability and harmony in rural communities, and they feed the nation.

Jamaica has potential to reduce our reliance on food imports, to be a leading food and value-added producer in the region, and to be a major exporter to our diaspora and cross-over markets beyond the region. Our agriculture policy will be robust. We will:

●  support farmers with better farm road and irrigation networks;

●  invest in storage facilities so that farmers don’t suffer massivelosses in times of glut;

●  revive and expand the PC Banks to provide flexible credit lines for production;

●  ensure that Jamaica’s remaining arable lands are not misdirected into other uses;

●  encourage larger producers to partner with small farmers in production ecosystems, building relationships to transfer technology and improve efficiency, as has been successfully done in the poultry industry; and

●  Urban farming will be given greater attention and support, as it will provide employment, relieve poverty and improve nutrition in inner city communities.It is time for us to move beyond the decriminalisation of ganja which I championed and brought to reality in our last administration. The potential of this industry is vast, but the current government seems not to understand or believe in it.

Time come to proactively empower and include small farmers in the ganja industry. They are the ones who built and protected our knowledge system around ganja over a century of prohibition enforced by international interests.

The next PNP Government will make the ganja industry fully inclusive. We will facilitate home-based production integrating with licenced processors; we will lower the bar for small farmers to come into the formal industry, and incentivize commercial and knowledge-sharing relationships with well-capitalised processors to achieve win-win outcomes for large and small producers. We will aggressively pursue export markets for quality Jamaican medicinal ganja. And we will also legislate to create a comprehensive, lawful ganja-based economy for the Rastafari community and the Maroons.

People in a precarious economic situation include those in the informal sector. It has been estimated that 48 per cent of the Jamaican economy is informal. It is almost half of our workforce. These are not mere numbers; they are people.

Micro, small and medium size enterprises are the most important drivers of economic activity and employment. The informal sector is so large in Jamaica because there are significant disincentives to formalization. The costs and bureaucratic requirements are onerous, cumbersome and unnecessarily difficult for micro and small business operators to wade through.

We have to understand the informal sector, so that we can give it support in a deliberate, effective way. The next PNP Government will design a user-friendly ecosystem tailored to the needs of the informal sector, to provide a pathway by which micro and small businesses can access the benefits of formalisation, including access to finance.

The sector includes our entertainers and other cultural-creative practitioners. The PNP recognises their importance to economic development, and must be transformed by sound policy. We established the Entertainment Board, which led to duty free importation of tools of trade for this industry. We started the National Cultural and Creative Industries Commission, which led to a focussed plan for the development of cultural and creative activities. We did significant work to create a registry of practitioners and producers, and a well-balanced system of entertainment zones where the night noise restrictions do not apply.

Since 2016, there has been no policy and little movement. The staging of celebratory concerts and events is well and good, but it will not fundamentally transform the industry to achieve its great potential.

The next PNP Government will modernize the night noise law to incorporate an entertainment zoning system; we will support the indigenous craft industry and its integration into the tourism industry; we will establish a musical heritage museum in Trench Town to honour the Wailers, Toots Hibbert, Alton Ellis, the Melodians and other icons of Jamaican popular music who emerged from that cultural mecca.

Tourism is not just sand and sea and its development should not displace our people’s access to the land and sea. Tourism must centre our people. Whatever we share with the world, it must be with the dignity of our people in mind. The next PNP government will work with all stakeholders to implement a progressive beach access policy, so that ordinary Jamaicans in every parish can have affordable access to our beautiful beaches in comfortable, clean and sanitary conditions.

Jamaica has towered in sport, especially athletics. A key factor in this amazing success story is the cadre of qualified coaches graduating from the GC Foster College and flowing into our schools all across Jamaica, a wonderful gift to the people of Jamaica by our closest neighbour Cuba. World beaters are now trained here at home, and we have the brand and knowledge-base to trade with the world.

There are great possibilities to make sports an even bigger contributor to our economy and national development, with the right mindset and collection of experience and competencies to chart the course, supported by the goodwill of the government, the regulatory bodies and other stakeholders.

I am one of the conceptual architects who have created Professional Football Jamaica Limited, a new institution that is well on the way to building a stronger, more marketable and economically sustainable professional football league in Jamaica.

This is the kind of thinking and dynamic action that the next PNP government will encourage in all areas of the economy. We will move from the current underperformance of expectations, and open new possibilities for growth and development.

Jamaica’s economic development and potential cannot be realised unless we put a stop to the unravelling of the social fabric of our society. Social Transformation is a must!

We must bring our communities together, yard and abroad! Community and love are the foundation of good values and attitudes. Values and attitudes matter. They govern our behaviour. They determine whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution.

I am a family man. I love my wife and my children! If not for my wife, I could not do what I do. In the PNP, ‘we seh family’.

Jamaica has many mother-headed households, who need some support. We respect the Jamaican mother, and we must find ways to support her motherhood. Our maternity leave requirements have not changed since we pioneered eight weeks of paid and four weeks of unpaid maternity leave in the 1970s.

Since 2000, the International Labour Organization’s Maternity Protection Convention has mandated a minimum of 14 weeks (or 98 days) of paid maternity leave, and recommends 18 weeks. Jamaica is among the 36 per cent of countries which remain noncompliant. Time come to be upgrade Jamaica’s maternity leave requirements to current international standards.

We also respect fathers who show up and partner with mothers. They also need support. And so, we will introduce legislation to create an entitlement to paternity leave with pay for fathers, so men can bond with their new- born children and build stronger family life.

We need to give real meaning to the concept of our nation as a Jamaican family. Jamaica cannot ignore the many thousands of youths who have been failed by our education system, and who provide a steady flow of recruits into the criminal networks that are unleashing mayhem and fear on our society. We cannot abandon those youth to a life of badness, imprisonment and premature death.

Time come to give our youths-at-risk a fresh chance to step up in life as citizens of this country. Piece-meal, underfunded approaches will not work. The next PNP Government will put in place a wholistic national programme to invest in our youths-at-risk and give them a second chance at becoming productive citizens and positive contributors to Jamaican society.

There can be no effective crime plan without empowering the youths and community building. Mentorship is community building! Remedial education means no-one gets left behind! Continuing education and vocational training mean people will have new opportunities to create a better life when the traditional system has failed them!

The National Housing Trust must support family life but expanding affordable houses for our people. We will bring it back to the core mission of Michael Manley, and partner with the private sector to provides homes for workers who otherwise will not own their own door key. We will restore the benefits recently taken away by this government from Persons with Disabilities, Public Sector Workers and person over 55 years old.

Yes, ‘we seh family’, and that also means we respect the hardworking Jamaicans who go abroad and send money to care for their families at home. We don’t see them as “cowards”! They migrate in search of opportunities for advancement, but they do not forget where they are coming from. We honour them as a vital part of the Jamaican family. They are helping to build Jamaica, and we are proud of their tremendous achievements.

We must find ways to partner with our Diaspora for the good of the Jamaica that we love. We will find more effective ways to include our diaspora in our democracy and national development.

As first steps, we want to expand the Senate, to include them, and encourage their inclusion on public boards where they have the skills and experience to add value. We will also make it easier for Jamaicans overseas to undertake philanthropic works here at home, cutting through the frustrating red tape that makes it so hard for our Jamaicans abroad to do good deeds here at home.

Time come to create a Jamaican Diaspora Development Fund to support social investments and finance exciting new economic opportunities in Jamaica. It will have a robust and transparent governance structure, to encourage our Jamaicans abroad to invest in it to make solid financial returns and earn heart-warming social dividends.

For Jamaica’s future to be filled with hope, there must be radical change for the better. The status quo is leading us down a road towards an increasingly insecure fate.

Our Jamaican dream must mean decent living for all. It must mean the people a live some good quality life. That is not just a question of their material well-being. It also means that they have a say in national decision-making. It must mean democracy, in the state and the economy. It must mean people they have access – access to clean water, clean air, adequate shelter, health care, affordable housing, education. It must mean social justice. It must mean we can live in peace.

It means time come to prioritise these things in our party work and our politics.

The PNP is committed to progressive change for a better Jamaica. It is our destiny.

Team PNP is once again united and strong. We have built back the love. Hope resides with us.

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