Holness touts economic gains in Independence Day Message
Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Prime Minister Andrew Holness says, as the country celebrates its 57th year of independence, Jamaicans have much to be thankful for in terms of the state of the economy.
"Many positive things are happening in Jamaica right now. There is much to celebrate on our 57th birthday," Holness said , adding "There is no question that at long last Jamaicans can feel proud that we are using our political independence to secure our economic independence."
Among the positives he outlined in his Independence Day Message were:
- the lowest unemployment rate in Jamaica's history at 7.8 per cent (youth unemployment down by six per cent);
- low and stable annual inflation rate at 4.2 per cent and downwards trending consumer price index;
- positive credit ratings, and historically high foreign exchange reserves;
- record breaking tourist arrivals for the last two years exceeding 4.3 million visitors with an 8.6 per cent increase in earnings for the industry;
- record low deposit interest rate at 3.2 per cent; and
- a strong stock market; and high consumer and business confidence indices;
The prime minister also pointed to sustained growth in the construction industry across Jamaica and particularly in Kingston "where we see new construction projects going up at a pace not seen in recent times.
"And the NHT is providing housing solutions for new homeowners like never in its history," Holness continued.
"By the end of this month, over 12,500 new housing solutions would have been provided to the market since 2017 and we have lowered interest rates for you."
Holness also highlighted that general mortgage rates are trending downwards steadily from double digit rates to now on average 7.5 per cent. He also note that an NHT contributor earning below $15,000 per week, pays zero per cent on their mortgage, while those earning between $15,000.00 and $30,000 per week pay one per cent.
"We have also introduced the intergenerational mortgage to assist older persons and families to acquire a home. What better way to celebrate your independence than by having a chance to own your home?" he said.
However, the prime minister noted that he's "under no illusion that all is well." He identified corruption and the environment as pressing issues needed to be resolved.
He described corruption as an area of great concern.
"At the heart of the issue is that corruption deprives resources from the poor and distorts and denies prospects for prosperity" Holness said, against the background of ongoing scandals which has forced two of his Cabinet members to resign under a cloud amid allegations of corruption, cronyism, nepotism and the misuse of public funds.
Still, the prime minister said that his administration has taken what he called "decisive steps" in creating a robust anti-corruption network including the passing of legislation to give MOCA administrative and operational independence; the passing of the Integrity Commission Act and establishment of the Integrity Commission; and new campaign financing regulations.
He also touted his administration's record on environmental issues, including its abandonment of the Goat Island project and the ban on single-use plastic. However, environmentalists are still expressing concerns over bauxite mining was taking place close to or in the Cockpit Country Protected Area.
However, Holness said his government remains committed in protecting the area.
"We are very sensitive to the concerns raised about the Cockpit Country Protected Area and we are very sensitive to the area surrounding and in close proximity to the Cockpit Country Protected Area. The government remains committed to protecting our environment, and will only pursue projects that are environmentally sustainable," he said.