Thank you for your direction of the ceremony so far. Let me assure everyone that my presentation will be brief and therefore I’m expecting to have your full attention.
Let me thank Reverend Burchell McPherson for offering the prayers, good to see you again father.
Their Excellencies, The Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen and Lady Allen
Dr Peter Phillips, Leader of the Opposition
Mr Christopher Issa, Chairman of the Chris Issa Group of Hotels
The Honourable Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism and other members of the Cabinet who are here
Jamaica is fortunate to have former prime ministers and I want to especially welcome them to this ceremony; the Most Honourable PJ Patterson and the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller.
I say fortunate because when you hold this job you get tremendous experience and that experience can be converted into advice. Advice that should not be kept in a silo but advice that can be shared and I’m certain that all prime ministers are sharing their advice and I can say definitively that I have been the beneficiary of many council and sessions where I’ve been advised, and I personally am grateful to have access to all former prime ministers.
Your Worship the Mayor, Councillor Homer Davis and Mrs Davis and our Custos, the Honourable Conrad Pitkin, Custos Rotulorum of St James and Mrs Pitkin
Members of the Private Sector
Members of the Tourism Fraternity
Ladies and gentlemen, you all look gorgeous this evening.
It is my distinct pleasure to be here to officially open the S Hotel. Now, mind you I asked Chris why ‘S’ and he explained it to me. Afterwards, I will tell you that story.
This is another significant investment and is part of the renaissance of our beloved hip-strip in Montego Bay. Before I came here, I stopped by the Usain Bolt Statue and the Bob Marley statue; two iconic works of art but also representative of our culture and our people. It’s the first time I am going there and I gather that both statues are a hit with our visitors and that people are coming and making their pose beside the Usain Bolt statue; believe me I’ve tried but I don’t think I got it well but this demonstrates a level of confidence of buoyancy and I’m certain that all of you here could attest that many more investors indeed local investors are taking the decision to invest in Jamaica. They recently revealed a survey of business confidence shows that 70% of firms continue to agree that the time is right for expansion. In addition, and what is more pleasing to me is that 55% of firms surveyed said that they will be making increased capital investments in their business in the next twelve months; that is music to my ears and the government will be doing its part in promoting investments, certainly what we have accomplished on the macro-economic level has added to that level of confidence, what we have done with crime-fighting particularly in St James has added to that level of confidence and on that note, I wish to again since I’m in St James, give the undertaking that the government will do everything in its power to ensure that the citizens of St James and our visitors are safe and secure.
Economic certainty, safety and security, seamlessness are important elements of a successful economic plan, but the government has another element in that plan and that is the full utilization of assets. One of the reasons why I accepted the invitation to speak today- I mean, I don’t have to say but Chris is just such a wonderful individual and I want you to put your hands together. You will never find a humbler servant of the people, a more considerate and philanthropic businessman than Chris and I want to personally add my own public commendations to you sir but the other reason why I accepted is that I wanted to use this as an opportunity to illustrate a point. Jamaica has incredible assets but we’re not using them and those that we’re using they are underutilized. This asset for over a decade was unused, an incredible piece of our tourism history just laid there doing nothing, not adding to our growth, not employing; it was just there. Clearly, it took a businessman, an entrepreneur with initiative but someone who could take risks because you are taking a risk. Government’s role is to make it easier for persons to take risks to add a greater level of certainty to the economic environment and without question this government has done that and we will continue to create the environment in which our entrepreneurs can step up to the plate and play their part in creating the economic growth and prosperity which we all desire.
In the coming months, the government will intensify its policy of full asset utilization. We will be looking at all the assets in the governments portfolio and through a process that is competitive and transparent, we will be making them available to the private sector to persons who demonstrate the drive, the interests, the entrepreneurship, persons who are risk takers to take these assets and make something of them for the people of Jamaica. We will be doing it through a process of divestment, through public/ private partnerships, through corporatization and we will be also placing many of these assets on the Jamaica Stock Exchange so that you who are gathered here can also own part of these companies and claim the prosperity.
You would’ve heard about Wigton Windfarm Limited which will be placed very soon on the Jamaica Stock Exchange and I’m encouraging you to look out for it and own a piece of it. Other such profitable companies are coming, and I want you to be prepared for it. Who knows, Chris may even consider putting the ‘S’ in the stock market. All of that is the prosperity plan but prosperity is only prosperous if it is shared. In other words, we can’t just have the few elites, selected, connected persons benefiting; every single Jamaican must benefit from the economic growth of this country. Without question the prosperity is being shared, more Jamaicans are employed today than any other time in the history of the recorded statistic for Jamaica and a job is the first way to share the prosperity, however, we need to do more particularly with the tourism industry. Every day that I meet with my Cabinet and the minister can tell you, I insist that the strategy for tourism must be to ensure that there is connectivity with the rest of the economy. The benefits of tourism must be shared with the people because all tourism is- if you take away the block and steel it is the people, it is the culture, it is our music, it is our language, it is our dance, it is all of that put together to form a package that distinguishes us from the rest of the world that makes people want to come here and enjoy so the industry must take an instrumental approach to ensuring that the benefits are shared. Buy more Jamaican, employ more Jamaican entertainers, put them in your package, make people see them because that is what is going to create the value for your product and I would clap for that as a show of solidarity to the people who are looking on who are not yet seeing the benefit of tourism come to their doorstep and it is something that occupies my mind greatly and indeed it moves my conscience and I’ve had discussions with the minister, we must find ways to make tourism inclusive and beneficial to all the people of Jamaica. Having said that, since I have this august gathering of Montegonians and see a spattering of people from Kingston.
Peter (Phillips) you had a function here earlier today? You had five functions… That explains, I was wondering. I hope in those functions you pointed out that very soon the government of Jamaica will be spending seven hundred million dollars to develop the closed Harbour Beach and for those of you who don’t know it, you may know it as the Dump up Beach. Prime Minister Patterson this is our attempt to create the Emancipation Park of Montego Bay. We have signed off on the bypass road for Montego Bay. The plans are now being developed, the engineering plans are now being designed and that should be finished shortly. It does take a little while to do all the studies, we’ve done most of the studies and now we’re in the phase of actually doing the designs and those will happen in short order and those are just two of the main plans that we have to develop Montego Bay and that I’m sure will enhance the tourism product. Ladies and gentlemen, in keeping with my promise not to detain you, I now close and say how elated I am to be here opening the S Hotel.