Her Excellency and I are pleased to share in this luncheon provided by Custos and Mrs Fuller and their team; and your gracious presence makes this a delightful luncheon. I appreciate the opportunity to meet with you, fellowship and reflect on the opportunities and challenges that the downtown business district encounter in its daily activities
Since my inauguration in 2009 I have had the opportunity to meet many of you here in settings outside of the downtown area. Kingston, of course, is the epicentre of commercial, civic, cultural, political and religious life in Jamaica. A historian told me recently that when Spanish Town was the capital of Jamaica, Kingston was a large pig pen, but that changed by 1872 when it became the capital. Its emergence to prominence has been dogged by some catastrophic moments, but it has always rebounded, as it did after the 1907 earthquake. The 1938 riots and might we say the 2010 State of Emergency?
What has kept this city so vibrant? It is the hope of its inhabitants and stakeholders who believe that despite its challenges and setbacks, the halcyon days will return. The creative genius of the people, the dogmatic resilience and shrewd business acumen will be used to secure our city and our nation. But let us not fool ourselves, it will require much cooperation among us. The business community working with other entities must discover new modes of doing business, creative ways of trading and improved quality in product and customer service. I believe the challenges must be faced, measured risks must be accommodated, bold decisions must be taken and visionary actions must be enacted if as a city Kingston is to reclaim its prominence as the most advanced city in the English speaking Caribbean.
In May of this year the World Bank in its report on Jamaica identified three leading binding constraints to economic growth in Jamaica two of which I will mention: (i) crime, and (ii) deficient human capital. It is evident that we will have to continue working hard to tame the crime monster. We commend the security forces for their work, but let me just iterate the point that crime and violence incurs public and private cost equivalent to 3.2 % of GDP. If we are to emerge from this state of paralysis we have to control this pandemic. You would do well to support the activities being undertaken by organizations to engage our unattached youth and make them productive. One such programme is YUTE which is spearheaded by the PSOJ under the leadership of Mr Joseph Matalon, and encourage you to support the programme as well.
We at Kings House are happy to partner with this program with the IBI launched in May 2011. This is a values based initiative intended to help Jamaicans believe in themselves, achieve their potentials and contribute to building a great nation. We discovered that the areas of greatest concern to Jamaicans are related to family, youth and education and IBI’s contribution are related to such issues. We will share some brochures with you and solicit your support to make the initiative successful.
I believe that the socio economic obstacles hindering growth and development in this great parish and in our country can be addressed effectively. I believe that the business community of Kingston can with one voice declare that it will not retreat in silence and fear but it will use its resources to rid this great parish of crime and criminality. I believe that the time is now.
I believe that with our recommitment to our youth and determined efforts our youth will opt for positive pathways and reject harmful avenues. I believe all Jamaicans and Jamaican businesses can invest in the provision of these pathways with the sure comfort that the returns will produce growth and business development. I believe our youth must be sold hope, not despair; they must be sold peace, not fear, they must be sold fairness, equality and justice, not disparity and hurt. I believe that the business community can sell these products to our youth and the time is now.
I believe that our greatest asset has always been our human capital and we must protect the value of this asset. Our people must be trained, and developed. Our people must keep a pace with technological development and must have access to the global information community. I believe an investment in each and every Jamaican is an investment in the economic stability of tomorrow.
I believe that even though as a country we are going through a difficult time we must keep hope alive. Let us join together to use those things that are right with our country to fix those things that are wrong with our country with determination and passion, emboldened by the knowledge that we are a nation which has been blessed with a rich heritage, abundant resources and the prospect of a bright future.