PM's time to bat
JLP insiders predicting 'blockbuster' presentation from Holness in 23/24 Budget Debate today
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right) in discussion with Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke in Parliament on Tuesday.(Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is expected to announce a raft of infrastructural projects, further measures to improve security across the island, and more support for Jamaicans at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder when he makes his contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate today.

Jamaica Observer sources say Holness is to present several major projects to be implemented by his Administration over the next two years, while there could be good news for people receiving State support.

"Now that the economy is on the right track, the prime minister is in a position to move on a number of big ticket items, so you can watch for those announcements today," said one Observer source close to the Holness Administration.

"These will not be things that we want to do but things that are set to be implemented and that will touch the lives of Jamaicans from Negril point to Morant point. This will be a budget presentation which will show Jamaica that this Government has plans to move the country to a different level," the source added.

According to the source, while it will be left to Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke to dismantle the "illogical" economic arguments presented by Opposition Leader Mark Golding during his presentation to the Budget Debate on Tuesday, Holness will respond to some of the overarching issues raised by Golding.

In his presentation, Golding charged that, "If we continue on the path Jamaica has been taken by this JLP [Jamaica Labour Party] Government, we will continue to see the entrenchment of the power and reach of the already rich; the enrichment of those who are politically connected; and a deepening of the dependency of the working poor and most vulnerable on the inadequate hand outs of the State — all in the name of a distorted and disfigured caricature of prosperity".

Said the source: "That is so incorrect that I doubt that the PM will have to do much to show Jamaica that the Opposition leader was just playing to the gallery without substance. A response will feature in the PM's presentation but not much time will have to be spent to show that it was a silly statement," added the source.

In his presentation in the Budget Debate last year, Holness spent much time on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Jamaica in the previous two years as he announced the lifting of the restrictions that had been imposed.

Holness then argued that the macroeconomic foundation was fertile ground on which Jamaica must now sow "SEEDS" (security, energy and environment, education and skills, development and infrastructure, and social partnership unity) for a future of peace, opportunity and prosperity.

With the issue of crime and violence proving the Achilles heel for his Administration, Holness told Jamaica in 2022 that: "It is an unassailable fact that the investment in building our national security apparatus by this Government is unprecedented. It is important for the country to understand that we are pursuing a long-term, multi-faceted strategy that will result in sustainable reductions in crime and violence. This is not a quick fix. Under Plan Secure Jamaica, we have started to strengthen our national security architecture by increasing the level and intensity of cooperation between agencies in the security space to narrow the opportunities for crime and remove the profit from crimes".

But with 2022 finishing with the murder numbers up when compared to 2021, crime is also expected to figure heavily in the prime minister's presentation today.

"Yes, you will hear the additional plans to deal with crime, particularly with the encouraging trends so far this year and you will also hear more about the SEEDS.

"We achieved much in these areas over the past year and the PM will outline plans to grow even more in what will be a blockbuster presentation," said the source.

– See Page 5 for what Jamaicans want to hear from the prime minister

BY ARTHUR HALL Editor-at-Large

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