By Neil Armstrong
Prime Minister Simpson Miller says Canada has been a great friend to Jamaica and was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the country at independence in 1962.
She also said that over the years the governments of both countries have engaged in areas of cooperation in a number of fields that have been mutually beneficial.
The Prime Minister’s remarks were presented at the Canadian Club of Toronto at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Canada, by Senator A. J. Nichiolson, Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
Simpson-Miller had to cut her official visit to Canada short to fly back to Jamaica in the onset of Hurricane Sandy. Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Simpson Miller held private discussions on Parliament Hill about increasing trade, growing jobs, and expanding economic opportunity between our two countries.
“I'm also pleased to note that our government announced earlier today an investment in innovative development projects, projects that will positively impact Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region over the coming years,” said Harper at a reception to mark the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between Canada and Jamaica.
Simpson Miller said her administration supports wholeheartedly Vision 2030 – the blueprint for Jamaica’s development until the year 2030 when “ours will become a country which will be a place of choice for people to live, work, raise families and do business.”
She said that Canada’s decision to make its own neighbourhood a priority with its Americas Strategy is a welcome one seeking as it does to promote prosperity and progress within the hemisphere.
“The United States has also communicated its interest in continuing to work with the countries of the Caribbean to deal with the seemingly intractable challenges of insecurity, crime and violence, human, drugs and arms trafficking and the challenges of the environment and poverty, among others,” she said.
The prime minister said the government is not pleased with the crime and associated violence related to the country’s reputation. “We have been fortunate to have received significant external help in our crime fighting strategies from governments such as Canada aimed at strengthening police capabilities and the justice system in our country,” she said.
The Prime Minister said that the government’s task for the next 50 years is to build on Jamaica’s unique identity as a global cultural superpower. She said Jamaica is acountry which has defied every limitation of its size.
It has phenomenal achievement in areas of culture, arts, music and sports. In the thrust for economic expansion and growth, the government has targeted certain key sectors, namely energy, tourism, information communications technology, small and medium enterprises, improved business facilitation, and the revamping of incentives regimes.
Tourism has grown from a primarily exclusive industry reserved for a few privileged travellers to a multibillion-dollar industry welcoming over 3 million tourists in 2011 in Jamaica.
“Tourism is an integral part of our economy and vital to development. Jamaica continues to hold its own in this department welcoming close to 1.5 million visitors between January and September 2012, an increase of over 3 percent over the comparative period last year,” said the prime minister.
ICT is another positive growth area that Jamaica is seeking investment partners to develop ICT space. The aim is to promote Jamaica as a business processing outsourcing destination.
In an attempt to further create incentives for foreign investors, the government recently passed the Overseas Tax Incentive Bill aimed at providing incentives for multinational corporations operating in multiple jurisdictions to do business activities in Jamaica.
It is aimed at attracting additional economic activity to Jamaica to ensure levels of employment for Jamaicans, as well as regulate the operation of government. “Fifty-years signify a measure of maturity when one comes into one’s own exuding confidence in one’s destiny and purpose. We are conscious that there is much that remains to be done. Even some of our seasoned nations are facing dark days through which they too will pass through successfully as we have hope in the light of tomorrow,” she said.