MAY 13, 2014

It’s good to be in Highgate for this event which proves that there is growth in St. Mary. This afternoon, we congratulate Mrs. Patricia Smith and the team from the First Regional who have achieved their dream of establishing a branch in Highgate. This town is growing as a commercial centre in St. Mary and the First Regional Cooperative Credit Union is making sure that they are here to provide the services which the growing population needs.

I have heard of another financial Institution that used the name “First”.  It was called the First Bank. Its Manager and staff were bright, vibrant and excited to start recruiting new members. So they acquired a huge billboard to advertise their new bank. When the sign arrived, the eager Manager and staff stood on the roof of their building to see the unveiling of their sign. As the curtain fell, so did their hope of attracting any clients because the sign read: “Our loans are easier, at First”.

Thankfully, there are no such ill-advised signs here!

The long-term vision of the Credit Union Movement, which started in 1838 in Jamaica, has always been to enhance the socio-economic conditions of its members and the nation in general.  During that early period, members of the movement found their strength in pooling their resources. They realized that their spirit of togetherness would lead them to achieve sustained development.

Today, we can all be pleased with First Regional that they are following a similar mission, that is, its dedication to “efficiently provide world-class financial products and services in order to foster a culture of growth and development for [their] members and staff”.

When the St. Ann Co-operative Credit Union merged with St. Mary to create this regional Credit Union, it was the first merger of its kind in over 60 years. This was a friendship which grew into a marriage, which is why the First Regional can boast of being ‘a larger and safer credit union’.

I also congratulate your Credit Union on its milestone achievement through its more recent strategic merger, this time with the Hospitality Credit Unions.  Workers in that industry can now enjoy the benefits of membership.

The fact is, irrespective of the sector in which we serve, all Jamaicans seek or want to be reassured of their financial stability and security. Yet our realities are such that many Jamaicans are finding it very hard to make ends meet.  Many young people who worked hard to complete their college and university studies are still hunting for jobs. Many adults have lost jobs and are trying their hand at different, legal ways of earning a living.

So clearly, therefore, Credit Unions remain as necessary today as when they were first created to help the newly emancipated black population. Credit Unions are becoming the answer for thousands with minimal disposable income and are important contributors to the financial stability of our nation as a whole.

The overall development of our country is dependent on how we nurture and prepare our youngsters to make the best of their opportunities for advancement. I am therefore pleased with the youth focus of the First Regional through scholarship support to GSAT students and second year students at tertiary institutions. I single out here, the donations made this afternoon to the Islington High School and Marymount High School.

One cannot help but commend their community outreach initiatives, including their contribution to the Port Maria Hospital for its Accident and Emergency Section.

Our people need to be empowered financially. They need to develop that level of confidence that will influence them to make sound financial plans, and I think First Regional is doing well in this regard. They are doing well through your commitment to provide world-class financial products to your members, you help them to realize their life ambitions and goals. You are also aiding our nation to achieve its Vision for 2030: to make Jamaica a place where we can live, work, raise our families and do business. This is a goal which requires the commitment of Jamaicans from all walks of life.

On May 1, 2014, Church Leaders and Christian Organisations convened a meeting at King’s House to consider strategies to assist in arresting the declining the declining values in our nation.  This meeting responded to the Joint Statement which I issued in February, along with the Most Hon. Prime Minster and the Leader of the Opposition. We called on all Jamaicans “to come together and make a concerted effort to take back our island from the grip of crime and the shroud of negativity”.

Our Church Leaders were encouraged to map out their plan of action and I hope that their members will faithfully, and in a concerted way, join the national effort for law and order and peace in our nation.  I hope that the people of St Mary, the parish that we love so well, will become examples of good neighbourliness, honesty, respect, and good work ethics.  In this way, you will be doing your part to enhance the transformation which Jamaica needs.


I challenge the First Regional and other financial institutions to go beyond your usual duties and services and play a major role in this transformation. I encourage you to look for even more opportunities to invest in our people, to help build hope and character within the people of our nation, and in the process, continue to support the positive programmes aimed at reversing the sliding values and improving the moral standards of society.

It is my constant belief in the people of Jamaica that underlies my conviction that there is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica. I am committed to using my Office to engender hope, to promote a more caring society and to influence our people along paths which will permit our peace, productivity and prosperity. And I will continue to use my Office to appeal to you in St. Mary and to everyone across our nation to join hearts and hands so that our beloved Jamaica will be the better place we all want it to be.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope this refurbished structure will stand as a testimony to the First Regional’s commitment that they will be the credit union “where you get Interest on your money and interest in you.”

And now, it is with great pleasure that I declare the Highgate branch of the First Regional Co-operative Credit Union officially opened!