KINGSTON: Jamaica celebrated its 51st anniversary of political independence from Britain on Tuesday by lauding its achievements in sports, education and the creative arts while encouraging nationals not to give up in the midst of hardships.
Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen said Jamaicans have the responsibility to help restore the country’s image and defend what is good. He said while the country is not where is should be, this can be fixed.
“We must believe that we are uniquely equipped to pursue our bold mission outlined in Vision 2030 of making Jamaica a place where we choose to live, work, raise families and do business,” he said. “We are all aware that there is some distance between where we are and where we want to be, but we must not be discouraged. Rather, let us embrace the many challenges which confront Jamaica, as a call to action and encourage each other to serve to the best of our ability, with dignity, honour and integrity.”
Sir Patrick said every Jamaican, whether at home or abroad, “has the responsibility to help restore our image as a peaceful and productive country. Each of us must accept our responsibility to defend what is good and what is right about us”.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said Jamaica’s rich heritage should be used as a catalyst to overcome the nation’s current hardships and defy the odds.
“Let us reconstruct our society so that all Jamaicans can meaningfully participate in the economic life of the nation. Let us ensure that every Jamaican is accorded respect and feels a sense of belonging to our society.
“Let us give full expression to the words of our motto ‘Out of Many One People’ as we celebrate the blending of our races and cultures and their contribution to nation building. Let us remember that Jamaica is more than a brand, more than a name, it is the pride of a people. Let us work towards creating a just, equitable, harmonious, productive and confident people,” she said.
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness acknowledged the country’s achievements but also recommended critical changes to the economic model in order to reap long-term benefits.
He encouraged Jamaicans not to rely on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement, as it is not the cure-all for the country’s economic problems.
“The country will not have success in its economic programs unless it can show the political will to implement meaningful structural changes. One such change must be tax reform which will see lower tax burden for all, a wider tax net and greater tax revenue.
“Let us renew our commitment to improving the productivity and efficiency of our economy by ensuring that all our labour force is trained and certified and that businesses are able to retool and incorporate the latest technology in their production,” said Holness.
In May, the IMF approved Jamaica’s application for a four-year US$932.3 million extended fund facility.
The agreement unlocked more than two billion U.S. dollars of loan support, including those from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.
Holness, who served as education minister in the last Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration, said that other changes should include ensuring that the education system is of the highest standard and measures are implemented to boost performance among both teachers and students.