Holness firm on free tuition, health care

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, December 19, 2011


JUNCTION, St Elizabeth — Prime Minister Andrew Holness Friday night stood by his party's policies of free tuition in public schools and free health care in the public health sector, suggesting they will remain in place should his party win the December 29 election.

"I am very passionate about education, and they coulda talk till dem blue, free tuition will remain for the Jamaican people...," Holness told thousands of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters in Junction, South East St Elizabeth.

Regarding health care, Holness lashed the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) for limiting free access to those 18 years and under in their last administration, describing it as "foolishness".

Holness said the eradication of poverty would be an important goal of a JLP administration, post-December 29, and the provision of social services, including "access to health care" would be an important aspect of that drive.

Holness claimed that as a result of free tuition over the last four years "the number of students registered in school, and attending school up to fifth form, has moved from 70 per cent of the high school population to now 80 per cent of the high school population..."

The prime minister argued that "If you ask me, isn't it better to have more students attending school and finishing school up to fifth form, my answer is yes, and if you have more students in school, then as far as I am concerned things already better..."

Regarding poverty, Holness said job creation would be a cornerstone of the policy.

However, against the backdrop of the PNP's emergency employment programme, JEEP, Holness argued that the provision of jobs and the eradication of poverty could not be sustainably achieved by a policy of "hand-outs" but by facilitating the growth of business and self-help. "...You don't end poverty by give away, instead of giving the man the fish you teach him how to fish," the prime minister said.

Education was crucial to this facilitation process, he said.

Holness claimed that because the PNP is "so ideologically confused — they not sure if they [are] socialist or capitalist — they don't know how to address this issue of poverty. First thing you have to do is educate people (because) there is no educated country that is poor". He argued that "by virtue of our emphasis on education we have started to remove poverty from Jamaican landscape".

Holness, whose father is a St Elizabeth native, said the people of the parish were an example to the nation of how poverty could be overcome by industriousness and ingenuity. The practice of dry farming in the southern sections of the parish, which had enabled farmers to produce food crops even in periods of drought, was a manifestation of that ingenuity, he said.

"The role of government is to support people, provide them with education, provide them with critical services, support small business and the people, once you give them that basis they will find their way," Holness said.

"Government must support people..., it's not about hand-outs, it's about giving you the ability to earn and find your own way in life. This is what I want to do as prime minister and leader," he added.

He reaffirmed that the Government was in talks with bauxite/alumina companies regarding the reopening of plants that have been closed since 2009 because of plummeting metal prices and high energy costs. Alpart in St Elizabeth and Kirkvine in Manchester remain closed.

"They (bauxite/alumina companies) plan to reopen the plants and we are working closely with them so that (people) can get back their jobs and start earning their income again," he said.

Claiming that there were no fundamental differences in terms of outlined solutions between the Government and Opposition to the country's problems, Holness said the voting public would have to make up their minds based on which party was better able to implement available options.

"What you have to decide is who will lead this country in the next 50 years of our independence... this election is about the future of your children..." (and) who had the "capacity, vision, skill and knowledge" to lead.

He claimed the JLP was the obvious choice and that even those "who are not supporting the party, want us to win..."

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Paul Sailah
12/20/2011 - 7:05 PM
I agree with the new young prime minister.
Teach the people to fish and give them the tools and they will put food on the table.
Give industry a chance and they will employ and create opportunity for those willing to try.
Wealth can be created from with in,and education is the key.
Jamaica needs young strong blood, initiative and the determination to educate its children so that they can compete in a competitive world.
Jamaica can,must and will succeed with Gods help.
God bless Jamaica.
12/19/2011 - 6:00 PM
The people are misled by the politicians to believe that they will deliver free education and free health care. There’s no such thing as free health care and free education! “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” Education and health care will continue to be part of the economic infrastructure and surely we will all continue to pay for them through taxation.
Doel Bailey
12/19/2011 - 4:22 PM
Bancroffe, based on what I have read, the Priminister didnt say he was going to take country for 50yrs. We have just celebrated our 50th independence, in my opinion, I think that is what he was referring to..Please re:read
Hugh Maxwell
12/19/2011 - 4:14 PM
Educating JA does not mean this free tuition at the primary school level. But more importantly, at university level. That is where its also important. When it was cost sharing, you did not have less people going to school. But when they take of the subsidy of UWI students that is where the problem is. Free University education and then you saying something sensible. They really take people for foo. God knows that if it was me alone, all the polling station would be empty..stupes
12/19/2011 - 4:11 PM
The term Free Education and Free Heath Care is payed for tax payers. Those who think the two items are free should wake up and realize that this is a falacy. This is why we are taxed pay about 40% of our income (PAYE earners) and GCT from 15 to 25%
Hugh Maxwell
12/19/2011 - 4:09 PM
I knew it! I knew it was too early to have all confidence in this man.. Look at the ailing health sector and Holness still talking about free health care. This is where I lose all the respect now for him. Politics, politics, politics..stupes. I an understand the free tuition to an extent ( though not in agreement) Is you him referring to as 'them could a talk' the medical associaiton of JA? Also why do they say that Health care is free. We all pay for it indirectly. JA IS A FAILED STATE.
johnny gordon
12/19/2011 - 3:27 PM
Mr. Holness, the JLP has laid the groundwork over the last 4 years for a new and improved Jamaica. I hope the people will agree with you that the JLP alone is able to bring the people of this great country together and move us forward. Omar Davis has no future in rebuilding the country. He is a relic of our darker past.
renrick hall
12/19/2011 - 2:58 PM
Every time I hear about elimination of poverty I laugh since Jesus said "...the poor you shall always have with you..." I think I would rather trust Jesus" words that that of egotistic and fool fool politicians. Lying promises are always the hallmark of politicians on campaign trails; hence we are cautioned to beware of Greek bearing gifts. For Jamaica's sake I hope for the best. But then again, truth and politicians generally cannot coexist. Prove me wrong Andrew.
Fay Johnson
12/19/2011 - 2:56 PM
Education is indeed crucial to this facilitation process of a nation. if education is in the balance then the development of a country will be stagnant and behind
Ornella Brown
12/19/2011 - 2:43 PM
The PNP'S JEEP doesn't speak much to anything new it is practically a continuation of the JLP'S work in progress and expected work.
Jelissa Grant
12/19/2011 - 2:37 PM
It is true Mr. Prime Minister we need to clamp down on the free-ness mentality in our Jamaican Society. Too often people depend on what their Mp's can do for them.
12/19/2011 - 2:36 PM
I agree with the PM, educating people is what Ja needs. If we have a majority of the population educated then any investors will know they wont have to bring in people to work because we already have highly skilled people here. Lee Hylton I agree with you,
Sean H.
12/19/2011 - 2:27 PM
Mr Holness
I urge you to call a spade a spade - it is STATE SUPPORTED / FUNDED education and healthcare. It is important to do so as what is little valued is not usually appreciated. This is especially true of education as seen in the numbers of students who idle away their time in school - they and their parents do not care as it is seen as being free.
Shemeica Smith
12/19/2011 - 2:26 PM
It is so true we will never get rid of Poverty through give a ways, education is the only way to kill the level of poverty we face as a country.
Kryssi Wwellian
12/19/2011 - 2:21 PM
It is very much true that if more students are in high schools and finishing up to the fifth form level then our country will indeed be better off
Anthony Johnson
12/19/2011 - 2:02 PM
@Bancroffe Demetrius. It's people like you this government hopes to educate. Your lack of understanding even when reading a straightforward article is appalling. Let me explain: Jamaica will be 50 years old in 2012. Fifty yrs from our independence in 1962. The prime minister is saying we are 49 yrs old now and Jamaicans will have to decide who they want to lead the country in its 50th anniversary. To think its people like you who help to decide who leads the country is mind boggling. God help us
Bancroffe Demetrius
12/19/2011 - 1:03 PM
Are we to understand Mr. Prime Minister that the next government will be leading Jamaica for the next 50 years or will there be another election after 5 years? Are you hinting that there will be no more elections?
Yard Vibz
12/19/2011 - 12:44 PM
"...You don't end poverty by give away, instead of giving the man the fish you teach him how to fish," says the PM... This is pure medieval cliché! What he means by 'end poverty'? Holness should know that while poverty can be curtailed, same will remain a stumbling block to mankind until eternity... In the US, where wealth is in abundance, long-nosed poverty has wedged itself from Cali to Maine... Sista P knows that we are poor because of insufficient opportunities, but Holness nuh have a clue.
Duane Johnson
12/19/2011 - 11:36 AM
Really???? Mr. .PM do you know how many of your school's bank account are in red????? Are you aware that there is thousands that will show up at your pharmacies and leave without medication because they ran out???? It would be a great idea if you can tell us where we are going to get the funds to maintain it..i guess more job loss??? hmmm....where is the vision of our leaders???
Lee Hylton
12/19/2011 - 10:43 AM
Why would anyone in their right mind want to rock the boat call Jamrock at this sensitive time. It has been done before and the country paid a very hard price for it. Each time that it has been done it is the same party in power and the same opposition trying to regain power. This time I am hoping that the people will finally see the light and do the right thing; and that is, vote for Jamaica and in doing so carefully look at the choices and decide on who is better prepared to deliver the goods.
0o k
12/19/2011 - 10:13 AM
Don't bow to the naysayers!