Wednesday 28 October, 2020

Holness revs election engine amid ‘economic recovery focus’

Prime Minister Andrew Holness at a recent handing over ceremony for units under the Social Housing Programme in Annotto Bay, St Mary.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness at a recent handing over ceremony for units under the Social Housing Programme in Annotto Bay, St Mary.

With mounting expectations that general elections will be called this year, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has given an indication that he will call the much-anticipated polls once he has dealt with the island's economic recovery from the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The economy has been left ravaged by the pandemic, resulting in much unemployment and a two-month closure of the island's pivotal tourism industry.

But with the containment of the island's coronavirus cases, the Government has reopened the island's borders, signalling the resumption of the tourism industry and other crucial sectors.

Speaking at the handing over of a house under the new Social Housing Programme in Bogue, St Elizabeth on Friday, Holness repeated that his current focus is on the island's economic recovery and not general elections, which are constitutionally due in February 2021.

"Whenever it is time (for the elections), I will know," the prime minister said with a chuckle.

"I don't know the time yet, but whenever it is time, I will know.

“What I do know (is that) it is now time for us to keep the focus on our economic recovery, and I am trying my best to make sure that there are no slips in that regard," he added.

But while not giving a direct timeline, Holness said once the economic recovery challenges have been sorted out, it will be time to put on his "track shoes" and embark on a "sprint", symbolising the campaign for the general elections.

"As soon as I have sorted that (the economic recovery) out, then I will, you know, put on my track shoes. You know, yes, and we'll do a quick little sprint and get that over with...," elaborated Holness.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness alongside his wife, Juliet. Holness says he will likely soon have a little "sprinting" to do. 

Two weeks ago, while at a function in Annotto Bay, St Mary, he downplayed calls for general elections, stating then, as now, that his mind was focused on repairing the economy.

Pundits have largely speculated that general elections will be called this summer, specifically in late August or later this year.

However, Holness on Friday countered those arguments indicating that the country is in a recession due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the recovery of the economy is pivotal.

"… right now my brain is saying just make sure (the economy is priority), because we are in a recession right now. There is an economic downturn. People haven't started to truly feel it as yet, but if we take our eyes off that, it could slip even worse. So we are making sure that doesn't happen," he said.

Meanwhile, Holness took a swipe at his opponents in the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) by asserting that he will not be distracted by power, but rather, focus on giving power to the people through various initiatives, such as housing and jobs.

"So whilst there are those who are eager to have power..., my main concern (and) my eagerness is about your power; about your ability to survive in this time," he told those gathered at the function in the bread basket parish.

"Even though people are calling the elections, (and) even though there appears to be great turmoil and problem, your Government and your prime minister is not distracted from doing the things that matter," Holness said, adding that "We will protect you from the threat of pandemics, (and) protect you from crime and violence, look at your needs in housing, look at your needs for infrastructure, looks at your needs for water, to ensure that the economy can continue to deliver the opportunities and indeed recover stronger."

The prime minister said already the construction industry where there is a significant demand for cement, has been showing positive signs for the country's economy.

The prime minister reaffirmed his Government's commitment to attending to the needs of the people, despite talks in the local media about impending general elections.

"Regardless of what you see... circulating in the media on your television screens at night, there is a real Jamaica, there is a real economy, (and) real people facing real challenges with a very effective Government which is very caring, that is attending to the real needs of the people," Holness sought to reassure.

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