MONTEGO BAY, St James — Even though he said elections are not on his mind at this time, Prime Minister Andrew Holness used Thursday night’s town hall meeting in Montego Bay to reiterate his Administration’s focus on implementing long-term, sustainable solutions versus the Opposition’s promises of short-term fixes.
At the same time, he conceded that it has sometimes been a struggle to get buy-in from some members of his team who become jittery that impatient voters will punish them at the polls.
“I want you to know that your pain points today, the pressures you face today, are seriously addressed by your Government. It is just that you can’t see the fruition of the efforts because it takes time,” Holness told the large audience at Harmony Beach Park.
“As the electorate, you know, you have the power to decide. Do you want a government that will strategically, robustly and intelligently address your issues or will you deal with a government that is going to come and promise you short-term fixes that won’t work? It’s up to you. My job is to make sure that I serve you as best as I can with the best of my ability and the sincerity of my heart to ensure that when these solutions come they will be there for generations, decades,” he added.
Holness said his focus is not on amassing power but on doing what is best for the country.
“I come from a generation that’s not power hungry. I am not in it for power. I have already declared that. I am in it to ensure that Jamaica is better off. And it confounds people because even within my Government there are those who want us to take short-term decisions because they are nervous about how people are going to vote,” he said.
“Well, if you have power and you don’t do anything with it, it is a waste. If you don’t improve people’s lives, it is a waste. And I think by any measure, no matter what measure you want to use, this Administration has improved the lives of the Jamaican people in meaningful ways,” the prime minister added.
During his address, he urged Jamaicans to be optimistic as the Government he leads has accomplished a lot. And he assured them that his comments had nothing to do with elections.
“Why is it that I’m saying to you, don’t give up hope. It is not because of what everybody feels that somehow there is an election in the air. Everybody talking about elections, all of a sudden,” Holness said with a mischievous grin.
He has noted, he said, a challenge for those inside the country to recognise the gains that have been made.
Using the line “rain a fall but the dutty tough” from reggae icon Bob Marley’s song Them Belly Full, Holness said during a recent trip to America, members of the diaspora were impressed upon learning of the nation’s 4.5 per cent unemployment rate, the reduction in the national debt, seven consecutive budgets without the introduction of new taxes, among other positives.
He said, however, that on returning to Jamaica the narrative is that nothing is being done to improve citizens’ lives.
During his hour-long speech the prime minister also addressed those who have expressed concern about the three-time delay in local government elections. While he acknowledged the role that the polls play in a democratic process, he contended that they must not disrupt the actual work being done by the Government.
“We are a democracy. When elections are due they are due,” he said.
Holness reiterated that the delays were justified.
“We must not postpone and defer and interrupt our progress for election. Elections must be routine. They must be very short, orderly and seamless. And then you get back to business,” he said.
“But there are those who want to use elections to disrupt progress. So let me just say to you, my mind is not on election. My mind is on ensuring that those who were at the base of the society, who still have not yet felt the change that is happening, you will get the chance. Because your Government is not taking its eyes off managing your business and your affairs. In other words, there are those who are power mongers. They just want power. They don’t necessarily believe in your progress. And the truth is that when they get power, they don’t know what to do with it,” he added.
The postponed local government elections are now to be held by February 2024 and general elections are due by September 2025.