New direction

Opposition Leader Mark Golding has promised Jamaicans a raft of policies which, he says, will take the country in a new direction, away from the policies of the Andrew Holness-led Administration over the last seven years.

Among them are anti-corruption policies, which he said he had made clear to members of his People’s National Party (PNP) they would not escape, under a Government led by him.

Golding, in his “new direction” 2023/24 budget speech in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, pledged that the next PNP Government will be different.

“When we form Government under my leadership, don’t expect leniency, don’t expect accommodation when it comes to that kind of wrongdoing, or any kind of wrongdoing. Expect full accountability. We will govern with integrity; public resources are for the benefit of the people, and not for any individual’s personal gain or profit,” he stressed.

He said the party would make further adjustments to anti-corruption laws and institutional framework to make them effective, including passing impeachment legislation to hold Members of Parliament accountable “so that no parliamentarian can bring our name and our reputation into disrepute by their antics ‘out a road’ without suffering some accountability for it”.

Other major reforms which he said a PNP Government would deliver include fixing the education system; solving the long-standing issues around land tenure; tackling crime; boosting productivity; and enabling the creative and cultural industries to thrive.

Among them is a plan to attempt to regularise housing arrangements for the 700,000 people living in informal settlements. He said this will involve a slate of far-reaching legislative proposals that will, for the first time, fully tackle the issue of land titling. This is alongside a review and overhaul of existing laws to make landownership more affordable and accessible, he said.

The next PNP Government, he added, would also complete outstanding infrastructure and land-titling activities, with support from the National Housing Trust (NHT) and other agencies in communities where work has been left in limbo for years.

Furthermore, he said the PNP will also take the education sector in a new direction, transforming the first 11 years of a child’s life by deepening the use of technology in primary schools; equipping students with social skills; reviving several of the school-based social development interventions which were abandoned; and removing taxes from laptops and tablets for students.

“We will ensure that teachers are eligible for student debt reductions and motor vehicle concessions at levels which increase with their years of service. We will ensure that teachers benefit from enhanced access to NHT loans and priority in housing allocations in NHT-financed schemes. We will also negotiate a package deal to provide our teachers with free Internet service as a tool of their trade,” the Opposition leader told the House.

To address crime and violence through social transformation, Golding said the PNP intends to revamp community-based interventions such as the Peace Management Initiative, Unite for Change, and restorative justice activities, while increasing the cadre of social workers available to communities.

At the same time, he said a comprehensive labour policy will be developed by the ministries of tourism and labour to resolve the issues surrounding contract employment, housing, and other concerns affecting tourism workers.

Golding said the Opposition has also identified 12 areas of common need in the cultural and creative industries, and has specific plans to create an enabling environment alongside the technical work needed to advance those industries.

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