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ELECTION: Andrew Holness

JAMAICANS WILL today journey to approximately 7,000 polling stations across the island to cast their votes to determine the party which will form the next government.

This collective decision will either ratify the ruling Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) four-year tenure in office, giving the Andrew Holness-led party a second consecutive term in government, or catapult the Portia Simpson Miller-led People's National Party (PNP) to the seat of power after a short spell in the political wilderness.

It is the 16th time since universal adult suffrage in 1944 that Jamaicans will cast their ballots for a government they believe has the capacity and vision to steer the country on a path to economic growth and job creation, leading to economic and social stability.

Between the 7 a.m. opening and 5 p.m. closing of the polls, the just over 1.6 million eligible electors will signal their choice of government. The new government will lead a country faced with the monumental task of resuming the stalled 27-month standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Since September 2010, the country has not taken the quarterly IMF tests due to major hiccups with Jamaica's economic targets under the existing agreement.

During the leadership debate on December 20, the last of three national debates, Holness and Simpson Miller sought to woo those voters who might not have made up their minds.

In her closing remarks, Simpson Miller reeled off specific actions that a PNP government would take if it is elected.

"When we form the next government, we will expand educational opportunities at all levels, finance a national export strategy, place a special focus on SMEs, negotiate an extended fund facility with the IMF, focus on non-traditional sectors such as ICTs and the creative and cultural sectors," Simpson Miller outlined.

soar to prosperity

Holness used his closing statement to paint a picture of hope, arguing that there were signs that the country could soar to prosperity.

"Now that we have stability in our economy, the glimmers of hope can be turned into the flame of prosperity for all. I believe we can do it; I believe we can end poverty; I believe we can have universal education; I believe we can have world-class infrastructure; I believe we can have a disciplined, loving and caring society. I believe in Jamaica, I believe in you. I ask for your support," the prime minister said.

That was in keeping with the position of the JLP on the campaign trail where it has claimed that its members are the better managers of the economy and have set the framework for economic growth. Following 13-consecutive quarters of decline, the country this year recorded growth for the last three quarters covering the period January to September. For the period January to March, the economy grew by 1.5 per cent; April to June 1.5 per cent and July to September 0.5 per cent.

This followed the massive effects of the global economic meltdown which had sent world markets in a tailspin and left developing states, like Jamaica, struggling to recover from its crippling impact.

On the other hand, the PNP has castigated the administration for what it describes as "the mismanagement" of the country, citing significant job losses over the last four years, a stalemate in the IMF agreement and the skyrocketing of the country's debt from about $900 billion in 2007 to approximately $1.6 trillion at present.

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