Speech by the Prime Minister

Haughton’s RxPak Mobile App Launch

Haughton’s RxPak Mobile App Launch

Keynote Address


The Most Honourable Andrew Holness ON, PC, MP

Prime Minister of Jamaica

At the

Haughton’s RxPak Mobile App Launch

February 29, 2024


Stafford, I’m here today not because of your invitation. I’m here today because you invited me as Prime Minister to attend your event, but I think I need to explain this very carefully.  I am also the Minister responsible for the DBJ. Yes, the DBJ falls under the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creations, one of our critical agencies so I’m not really here as prime minister today. I’m here as minister with responsibility for the DBJ.

We’ve recently taken on under the Office of the Prime Minister, the responsibility for digital transformation for which minister without portfolio Dr Dana Dixon is here so in a sense I’m also here for that.  So, I’m here mostly in a ministerial role. I think most people view me totally in my prime ministerial role, but I do actually do ministerial work and Chris attested to it.

I do take direct charge of several entities including the DBJ, including UDC, including the Port Authority so one of my functions as a minister aside from the policy development, aside from the administrative oversight is to perform these kinds of ceremonial duties. We may believe that the ceremonial duties are of less import or less effect, but that’s not the case. For policy to be understood for it to be effective sometimes it is important that someone stands up and represents it as of the government.  So, Chris would have explained it to you from the technocrat’s point of view.

My job now is to explain it from- I’m not going to use the word political because in this context it can be interpreted in all kinds of ways, but from the executive point of view why it is that the government of Jamaica would allocate resources to support the digitization of companies. I believe it was in 2019, thereabout, we announced the BIGEE Programme, (Boosting Innovation, Growth and Entrepreneurship Ecosystems).

Why? Because it was a strategy towards the promotion of growth in the economy. Growth is an important policy plank of the government.  We had an important policy plant before that which was fiscal certainty and I believe that that policy plank is now well entrenched foundation off our country. We need now to entrench growth in our economy. Growth is essentially a kind of microeconomic pursuit, literally firm by firm support. It’s very granular from a policy and strategic point of view in terms of what government policy has to do and therefore the DBJ is an important agent of growth. It acts as a catalyst for growth, and it literally supports business by business by business.

So, today, you’re seeing the DBJ supporting a small family-owned business in Jamaica to promote its growth but not just to promote its growth only, to promote the growth of Jamaica and all other small businesses.  So, the BIGEE grant, which it is a grant, is available for all businesses that meet the criteria. And I use this platform, Stafford, to encourage other businesses to apply to the DBJ to inquire what are the necessary qualifying attributes that you would need. The DBJ would help you to meet them if you don’t, and the DBJ will support you in this regard, so I use this to encourage all businesses to inquire of what is available of the DBJ.

So, the BIGEE Programme is designed to help innovation.  Innovation is another important element of growth. It is also designed to help businesses transition to digital systems. So, we have grants that help businesses to improve their computer systems, and we have grants to help businesses do what you have just done include data technology in their business and to improve their business processes and properly engineer their business processes for efficient customer service.

But it’s not just innovation in the engineering of your business process, which is what you have done, they do also have grants for people who are developing apps or games or people who want to go into animation and develop films, all kinds of areas of support are there under this BIGEE Programe and we again encourage small businesses to become a part of this. This is foundational for growth so we’re very happy that we’re able to identify with what you have done with Haughton’s Pharmacy and to use it as an example as to how you are going to integrate technology into your small business to use that to grow your business.

I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen and I’m not about to go over what you have already explained, Francine, that the app will increase the convenience of your customers so you should be able to order your prescription online and if you are an elderly person, and it is your family overseas that has to pay for this then the app also makes it very convenient for that to be done. I find it to be an excellent integration of technology in your day-to-day affairs.

I want to hear how this drone delivery works so please when you do your first drone delivery, let me know.  You’re doing a demonstration today; I’d love to see it. You say you could deliver in a nine-kilometre radius, that’s good. It is being done in other countries around the world. It might seem to be a novelty but the way in which the technology is evolving, it may very well become one of the dominant means of service fulfilment and delivery so I’m happy to see that you are integrating that into your business.

What is the purpose of growth?  And why is it that we’re focusing so heavily on growth?  The fiscal certainty, it’s not going to be enough to address the challenges of our country.  We have to have growth as a part of the strategy. The fiscal certainties ensure that we don’t have to impose new taxes on people, that’s number one.  And it gives a sense of security to investors and businesspeople, so it gives you a long runway to plan but the growth strategy now, that is what is going to encourage businesspeople to make innovations to create new business on top of this platform of certainty.

And that new business, that innovation on top of a platform of certainty, that is what will grow the government’s revenue. That is what will increase the tax revenue without increasing taxes; that is the strategy for growth and that’s what we want to do.  And that is what we have been doing but at 1.9 per cent the election has shown us it is not enough because the magnitude of the problems that we have to treat with, 1.9 percent growth is simply not going to grow the government’s revenue enough to correct all the water supply challenges that exist, all the bad roads that exist, the need for better public transportation; it’s just simply not going to do

And Christopher did a very good job in explaining what DBJ is doing as a part of this kind of catalytic government entity to increase the pace of growth. Much more needs to be done to increase the pace of growth so part of me standing here is to highlight the BIGEE Programme so that more firms can come on board, take advantage of the grants that are there, and start to innovate and integrate technology in their business, grow their business and so that we get more tax take. So, from that, we can then deal with the issues that the lady in northwest Manchester pointed out to me, and I mean, it’s stuck with me, and I know she knows who she is. She would know when I say it that she said to me, “Prime Minister, I am not voting. I’m 70 years old. I cannot carry water anymore.” That is a reality that we have to pay attention to.

How do I solve it?

There are those who wish upon a star.  There are those who will make all kinds of promises that they will do it, but I say to you, nothing can be done without a growing economy. No matter how we circle around it, the situation with water and roads and all of these challenges have been there from before Haughton’s Pharmacy was established in 1920.

So, the recent events have obviously sounded the need for rethink for greater attention to be paid to these, what I call pain points in our society, and it also is a signal for the government to recalibrate its strategy.  So, we have focused quite a bit on infrastructure, again, as part of the growth strategy, increasing the capital budget, getting new roads built, putting in these good infrastructures that increases the pace of business, but I still have to pay attention to the 70-year-old lady who cannot carry water on her head anymore.

So it’s a balancing act and the democracy is such a beautiful thing that it corrects government and the government’s program of how fast we should grow relative to what we need to pay attention to, to ease the pain and suffering of people in the society, you have to recalibrate that, but see the conundrum. If you don’t grow, you really can’t attend to the issues.  And if you spend on the social issues, you sacrifice some growth.

Do you ease the suffering temporarily? But then you get back into the immiseration when you can’t continue to spend because you don’t have the resources, so it is not a simple issue and within the political cycle that has to be sorted out. There are those who are in a celebratory mood, and then there are those who feel that they were betrayed politically, and all of that obviously for me is something that I pay attention to but I never lost sight of the fact  that we must pay attention to ensuring that the economy works and that is why I’m standing here today as a demonstration of the fact that we are making our economy work but we must also make our economy care. Two things have to be done; we make our economy care because we must care about that 70-year-old lady who cannot carry water.

So, the economy is caring, make no mistake about it. In 2023 alone, we increased the drug subsidy for over 350,00 active NHF beneficiaries and for more than 21,000 beneficiaries of the Jamaican Drug for the Elderly Programme, (JADEP); these are all pharmacies matters, they come to your pharmacy.  That’s a way in which the government cares.  Further, the NHF instituted a $1,600 subsidy for a one prostate-specific antigen test, (PSA test), per year to benefit and encourage more of our men to get tested for prostate cancer. That’s a new benefit that we’ve added. That’s part of the caring economy.

The NHF has also included five new health conditions to its health Card Programme, Lung Cancer, Colorectal Cancer, Multiple Myeloma, Parkinson’s Disease and Thyroid Disease bringing the number of conditions covered by the NHF to 22 conditions, that’s the caring economy. This represents an estimated 450 million in additional subsidy, which will benefit some 47,000 Jamaicans.  With the addition of these five conditions, 10 new medications are now available under the benefits programme.

In addition, the NHF has assigned 61 contracts valued at 27 billion dollars for the procurement of essential drugs under the 2023 to 2026 Pharmaceutical Awards Programme. Again, the caring economy.

Closer to what we’re discussing here, the Ministry of Health has just implemented a new digital system for its health records,  which will ensure that the access to health records,  the ability of doctors to properly look at the data  and to use that data and information in the diagnosis and service, that that has been increased.

I’m here again, not so much in my role as  Prime Minister,  I’m here in my role as Minister of Economic Growth and Job Creation,  for which the DBJ is a critical catalytic entity,  and to use  what you have done, that is the Haughton’s Pharmacy, a 104 year old institution  that is ensuring that you have another 50 or so years by virtue of embracing innovation  and that the government is supporting that innovation but to also make the point  that the grant supporting innovation which could easily be a grant for water somewhere else, but the grant to support innovation is to support growth so that we have a sustained increase in government revenues which we can use to spend on these things like health and water  and all the other issues the other pain points for which Jamaicans are fatigued and frustrated.

So, again, I want to commend Haughton’s Pharmacy and commend the DBJ and to thank all of you who have gathered here in support of this great effort.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure.