JAMAICA Labour Party (JLP) leader Andrew Holness says that Opposition will not accept a reversal of its policy against educational and public health facilities user fees.
"We reject, absolutely, the argument that there must be a return to user fees," the Opposition leader told yesterday's Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica Chairman's Club Forum at the Wyndham Hotel in New Kingston.
In an obvious swipe at Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Holness told the crowd of business people that it was not good enough to hug and kiss the poor "and say you love them".
"I rubbish those arguments about caring for the poor, without doing anything substantial for their development," he said.
"Yes, you must hug and kiss them, but you must also do something proactive for the poor, which is why I am a member of a party that believes in free access to education and free access to health care," he added.
Holness also criticised the Government for finding it easy to cut health and educational support, which he described as "the two things that can lift people out of poverty", while finding it difficult to cut corruption on the wharves.
He said that the JLP believes in creating growth, through private sector-led initiatives, while Government creates the atmosphere and environment for the private sector to flourish and create jobs. He said that in order to balance people's lives, the country has to rebuild its economy, and in order to do that it has to rely on the private sector.
"But, we believe that we must be an active partner to ensure that when there is growth, we organise the programme so that the benefits are equitably distributed to include the poor and vulnerable," he said.
The JLP administration delivered on its election campaign promise in 2007 to make health care more affordable for the average Jamaican by removing user fees on April 1, 2008. The fees abolished included registration, hospital admission, surgeries, medications, doctor's examination, diagnostic services, blood transfusions and lab works, ambulance service, physiotherapy, and maternal care.
The abolishment of fees, however, cost the Government an additional $3.85 billion to meet a projected 30 per cent increase in patient load at public health institutions, and the current People's National Party Administration has said that it cannot sustain the cost and intends to restore the fees.