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PM welcomes Hill to EGC, promises more focus on crime

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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DESPITE a growing chorus against the ability of his Government to achieve the targeted five per cent growth in four years, Prime Minister Andrew Holness stuck to his guns yesterday, agreeing with his economic growth gurus that it is achievable.

Welcoming banker and Government Senator Aubyn Hill as the latest addition to the team at the helm of the Economic Growth Council (EGC), which resides in the Office of the Prime Minister, Holness expressed confidence in the council's leadership.

He said it offers “confidence and liquidity”, as well as a determination to overcome the threat to growth posed by the country's crime situation.

“We are seeing all the processes that suggest confidence and liquidity, and people also have to feel that there is a certain level of security,” Holness assured the media at a press briefing at Jamaica House to announce Hill's appointment as the new executive director of the EGC.

He assured Jamaicans that the security concerns of his Administration were not limited to “big businesses”, and noted that, as part of the process, the Constabulary Force Act would be subject to changes to protect the rights of citizens.

“Security concerns are not just for big businesses. It is moreso a concern for the average Jamaican, and we are particularly concerned about the specific situation that plagues Montego Bay,” Holness said in responding to a question from the media about the threat of violence to the EGC's growth prospects.

He said that the EGC has been monitoring the security agreements under the Stand-By Agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

“And they have been doing a very good job to monitor, in particular, legislation that will see a new Jamaica Constabulary Force Act being put in place, and other arrangements we cannot disclose yet,” he assured the media.

He said that the EGC would be seeking to support the Government's security initiatives through other means, particularly as it relates to financing the Government's security measures.

“So the EGC is very sensitive to the issue of security and other views are being taken into consideration, because they do report to me as to what some of the obstacles are and what the stakeholders report to them,” he informed the press.

But the briefing was basically to announce the appointment of Senator Hill to replace Maureen Denton, who had been in charge of the council.

Denton resigned in August and, after a process of searching for a replacement, the ministry decided on Hill rejoining his former boss at the National Commercial Bank (NCB) and chairman of the EGC, Michael Lee-Chin, as the new executive director.

“I am satisfied and confident that Senator Hill will be able to execute the duties of the office proficiently, and at the end of the day we can all be satisfied that Jamaica is about growth and that we will achieve five in four,” he commented.

Lee-Chin also welcomed the renewed partnership, noting that he first teamed with Hill at the NCB in 2002, with an objective to change the culture of the bank.

“And our main objective today is to change the attitude, values and outlook of us here in Jamaica,” Lee-Chin said.

He said that he was satisfied and optimistic with the growth initiative.

“I am excited because, when you look at Jamaica today… we have a stable currency and, by the way it is unprecedented. We have not seen that for decades. We have a strong net international reserves and we have a stock market that is booming,” he said.

“So all these parameters point to one big thing, confidence, and confidence is the precursor to success. So today we are rejoining forces with Mr Hill, who is a known executor, and for those reasons I am very excited today,” he added.

Senator Hill said that he was “extremely pleased” to be teaming with Lee-Chin again.

“We are going to ensure that when we take on the objectives we are going to see those kinds of objectives met, and we are going to work towards them, step by step,” Hill promised.

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