1. Recovering Stronger – ensuring that our economic output is restored to pre-COVID levels in the shortest period of time and that our recovered economy is more diversified and even more resilient.
2. Ensuring that Jamaicans are working again at the same record levels or better, through a consistent and cross – cutting drive for job creation with supporting elements of innovation, training and apprenticeship.
3. Transforming our education system to provide our children with access to quality care, education and training so they all have the best start in life.
4. Building the safe, secure and just Jamaican society for which we all yearn.
5. Improving access to healthcare and promoting healthy lifestyles.
6. Investing in our people so they can realize their full potential.
7. Enabling and empowering all Jamaicans through the provision of national identification, access to the Internet, and a more effective and simplified delivery of services using technology.
8. Supporting our most vulnerable by strengthening the social safety net.
9. Taking Climate Action locally and globally, by promoting and implementing clean and green policies to secure sustainable development and a healthy environment for our future generations.
In closing this debate, Madam Speaker, it is important that we recall and highlight some of the critical issues that were raised by respective Parliamentary colleagues. Despite the pandemic, I’m happy to say the work goes on and we continue to be in full alignment with our Manifesto commitments.
Labor and Social Security
Madam Speaker, as we recover faster, stronger and better, we begin with the work of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which has:
• Allocated $800 million to implement the Social Pension Program this fiscal year.
• The program is the first of its kind yn Jamaika and is the largest social protection initiative to be implemented by the Government since the introduction of PATH almost 20 years ago.
• The Honorable Minister of Labor and Social Security, Karl Samuda also announced that his Ministry has allocated $100 million for Members of Parliament (MPs) to provide greater assistance to their poorest and neediest constituents.
• Madam Speaker, we are happy to once again share that the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) also had an increase of $476.2 million as at February 28, 2021, moving from a negative $245.06 million as at February 28, 2020.
Economic Growth and Job Creation
Madam Speaker, as we recover faster, stronger and better, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Everald Warmington highlighted that the National Works Agency (NWA) is projecting to spend:
• $4.7 billion this fiscal year (2021/22) to undertake recurrent activities, which is a marginal increase over last year’s budget of $4.5 billion.
• These activities include emergency repairs to roads, river-training activities, the cleaning of gullies, island wide disaster mitigation, bridge development and construction, the maintenance of secondary roads as well as traffic management and control.
• Construction is also to commence on several projects during the 2021/22 financial year, which will provide approximately 400 acres of additional special economic zone (SEZ) space at an estimated value of more than US$1.3 billion.
• We are also working to improve water supply to more than 150,000 residents at a cost of $8.8 billion. Under the project, being pursued through a Water Purchase Agreement (WPA) among the National Water Commission (NWC), Vinci Construction Grand Projects (VCGP), Eppley Limited (Eppley) and Jamaica Producers Group Limited (JP), a water treatment plant will be established in Content, St. Catherine, which will deliver an additional 15 million gallons of water per day for customers in the Corporate Area as well as Portmore and Spanish Town in St. Catherine.
Madam Speaker, the Honorable Justice Minister, Delroy Chuck in his presentation as we recover faster, stronger and better stated that the Government is working to revise and modernize several pieces of key legislation during the 2021/22 fiscal year:
• They include the Judicature (Parish Courts) (Amendment) Act and Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) (Amendment) Act, to grant limited right of appeal to the Prosecution; the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act, which will expand the powers of the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Board to consider applications for expungement; and the Mediation Act.
• Madam Speaker, the advent of COVID-19 forced us to pivot and change the way the court system operated. We were very happy to update the country that all hearings from the Court of Appeal are now conducted remotely using video and teleconferencing, and at the Supreme Court, bail hearings and mention matters were moved into the virtual space.
This allowed for adherence to the necessary distancing protocols and resulted in greater convenience for court users and more efficient use of court resources.