Before an estimated crowd of 8,000 party officials, supporters and members of the diplomat community, Mrs. Simpson-Miller took the oath of office at King’s House before Governor general Sir Patrick Allen, telling the nation she was “deeply humbled that, once again, you have chosen me to lead our nation as it stands at a crossroads”.
Mrs Simpson-Miller had first headed a government here from 2006-2007 following the retirement from active politics of then prime minister PJ Patterson. But she was defeated in the 2007 general election by the Bruce Golding led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
In last Thursday’s general election, the PNP won 42 out of the 63 seats at stake and the new prime minister said “the team, which I am privileged to lead, is just as conscious as I am of the difficult times that confront us on our journey.
“In our political history, it is a rare opportunity to be given a second chance to lead. It is also a sobering experience. But, I have been strengthened by the experience of going through the first phase of the journey. And, I have emerged,” she added.
She told the nation that she is a “stronger and better person, who is prepared to be of service to my country and people” and is also aware that the country faces “an awesome task.
“There is greater debt, increased poverty levels, tighter fiscal space. My administration will not engage in a blame-game. We will present the facts to the Jamaican people, based on rigorous analysis. Our approach must be to right the wrongs and insist on accountability.
“Let us learn from our past, absorb the lessons and go forward. We only need to look back to confirm where we are coming from, and to correct our errors and weaknesses as we look to the future. That is the way of progress,” she added.
Prime Minister Simpson-Miller said the mandate which Jamaicans gave to the PNP “is a call to action.
“It is a signal from our people that we, the government, must earn their trust. It also gives us the opportunity to ease the burdens and the pressures of increasing poverty, joblessness and a deteriorating standard of living.
“The mandate is a cry for us to restore hope. The mandate calls on us to protect the good name of Jamaica, at home and in the eyes of the international community. Jamaica must remain for all, a “quality brand,” which gives citizens, from all walks of life, the opportunity to achieve their goals.
The Jamaican people have sent a clear message. They want a more accountable and transparent government which consults them; and, they should expect nothing less,” she added.
She said that her first order of business for the new government will be to inform itself about the true state of the Jamaican economy.
“Then we must act. We remain committed to a vibrant partnership with all critical stakeholders; local private sector; the public sector—civil servants who play a pivotal role in nation building; our international partners; and, in particular, with the International Monetary Fund, as we identify the basis for a new Agreement.”
She said that the policies of her administration are based on the principle that the private sector is a major participant in shaping the economy.
“However, in a time of crisis, government must act to stimulate growth and to restore confidence in the country’s ability to pay its way. Hence, in the short and medium term, we will use state resources to stimulate employment through the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP).
“We will do so in a transparent and non-partisan manner, to improve critical areas, such as the infrastructure and the environment, which support economic growth.
“Let me say emphatically to our business community, at home and overseas…we will pursue a tight fiscal policy, reduce our debt to GDP ratio, maintain the key macro-economic fundamentals; and be very careful and prudent in our debt management.”
Prime Minister Simpson-Miller said that the task would be undertaken at the same time her administration seeks to improve the social conditions of the population, including a serious reduction of the chronic state of unemployment in this country, particularly among our young people.
“I also assure you that we will work with anyone who is prepared to work in Jamaica’s interest and who shares our vision that people must be at the centre of our development.
“Our investors, including foreign direct investors, must contribute to making Jamaica a truly competitive economy. Now, more than ever, we must also make it easier to do business in Jamaica. Investors demand no less, and our future social and economic prospects depend on it,” she said, adding that her administration would be “marked by greater openness in government and frankness in our relations with the global community”.
The new prime minister also promised to “broaden and deepen” its input into the regional integration movement.
“We will restore the vibrant and vigorous participation of our country. Previous PNP administrations have given quality time and expertise to this regional integration movement.”
She said one important agenda item will be to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its final appellate jurisdiction; and in this way, end judicial surveillance from London.
“We must fully repatriate our sovereignty. And, in going forward, we invite the Opposition to follow through on the statements which it recently made that we were “not far apart” in our respective positions. Let us, together, complete this aspect of regional integration within the life of this administration,” she added.
Only Barbados, Guyana and Belize are members of the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, which was established to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court.
But most of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are members of the original jurisdiction of the court that also acts as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration process.
In her address, Prime Minister Simpson-Miller also made reference to the 50th independence anniversary later this year.
She said it will be a time for reflection on the lessons of the past “and as we celebrate our achievements as an independent nation, we now need to complete the circle of independence.
“In this regard, we will, therefore, initiate the process for our detachment from the Monarchy to become a Republic with our own indigenous President, as Head of State.
“Today we embark upon a new phase of our Jamaican journey. In the ‘Global Trade Winds’ of change we are not always at liberty to direct these winds but we must set our sails to pilot the Good Ship Jamaica through these turbulent economic waters to safe harbour.
“In the face of these dramatic winds of change, I am calling for all hands on deck. This nation requires the strength, the creativity, the innovation and the steely courage of every Jamaican man, woman, youth and child to place this vessel on a path to prosperity,” the new Prime Minister added