Percival Noel James Patterson is a Caribbean and international statesman who has committed his life to ensuring positive social and economic transformation for the people of Jamaica, the Caribbean and the African Diaspora. For more than six decades he applied his sharp intellect, legal training, vast political experience and keen global insights towards achieving this objective.
Born in St. Andrew, Jamaica, on April 10, 1935 to parents from the rural parish of Hanover in the western region of the country, PJ, as he is affectionately known, had a rural upbringing attending elementary school in St. James before moving to Calabar High in St. Andrew.
Mr. Patterson earned an honours degree in English at the University College of the West Indies (UCWI), now The University of the West Indies. He later studied Law as a Leverhulme Scholar at the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE), where he excelled in the law of contracts winning the prestigious Sir Hugh Parry prize. He was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in the United Kingdom and in Jamaica.
Early in his life, PJ Patterson responded to the call to political service gaining valuable apprenticeship in national representation as President of Jamaica’s Sixth Form Association, while at Calabar. As Chairman of the UCWI’s External Affairs Commission, he participated in international student forums, interacting with prominent world statesmen and future Caribbean leaders. This provided the foundation for his immersion into international political and economic affairs and created a lifelong commitment to Caribbean regionalism and the causes of the developing world.
PJ Patterson’s professional life has spanned education, law and politics. On the completion of undergraduate studies, he taught English and Spanish at Cornwall College and was Overseas Research Officer in the European Offices of the Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation (JIDC) from 1960 to 1962, before engaging in private legal practice from 1963 to 1972.
His association with Jamaica’s People’s National Party (PNP) started in the 1950s when he interrupted his university studies to campaign for founding PNP President Norman Washington Manley in the West Indies Federal Elections.
Mr. Patterson directed the campaign for the election of Michael Manley as President of the PNP in 1969 and served as Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate from 1969 to 1970. After winning the South East Westmoreland seat in the House of Representatives via a by-election in 1970, he was appointed Opposition Spokesman on Youth, Sports and Community Development. He directed the PNP’s national campaign that swept Michael Manley and the party into power in 1972. He repeated this success in 1976 and 1989. He was for many years a Vice-President of the party and served as its Chairman from 1983 to 1992.
During Michael Manley’s tenure as Prime Minister, Mr. Patterson was at various times Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade; Minister of Development, Planning & Production; Minister of Finance & Planning; and Deputy Prime Minister.
On Michael Manley’s retirement Mr. Patterson won the contest for the presidency of the PNP and was appointed Prime Minister of Jamaica in March 1992. While Mr. Manley was the first Jamaican Prime Minister to win a third term in office, Mr. Patterson has the distinction of being the first to win three terms in succession with electoral successes in 1993, 1997 and 2002. He retired in March 2006 having served as Prime Minister for 14 consecutive years and having been MP for the now Eastern Westmoreland constituency between 1970 and 1980 and 1989 to 2006.
Government Policy Achievements
Mr Patterson is credited with continuing the liberalisation and privatisation of the Jamaican economy as well policies to empower the people, started by his predecessor. Liberalisation of the telecommunications sector led to revolutionary expansion in mobile telephony and laid the ground work for the introduction of the modern logistics and global business processing outsourcing industries, which became leading sources of employment. He pursued deliberate information and communications technology policies to broaden internet access and broadband penetration.
At the same time, the liberalisation of the media landscape created investment opportunities in radio, free to air and cable television and democratised communication; while the introduction of the Access to Information Act demonstrated a commitment to transparency and good governance.
Mr. Patterson’s Government, with the cooperation of the Opposition, continued the process of refining the country’s electoral system to become a model of international best practice. The Patterson Administrations also led the modernisation of the public service, as exemplified in the transformation of the systems and services of the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency, the Registrar General’s Department, Tax Administration Jamaica and the postal service, Jamaica Post.
Among his government’s most notable achievements was the quantum leap in investment in education, including the building and refurbishing of schools, and expansion of access to education, especially at the early childhood level. The emphasis on people programmes also saw the creation the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH); the Jamaica Social Investment Fund; the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, National Health Fund and the National Investment Fund of the National Insurance Scheme. All of these institutions have become global case studies in successful social intervention. His social reengineering policies included extensive physical upgrading and equipping of the island’s health facilities.
During his Administrations, Mr. Patterson led the provision of housing and land to greater numbers of Jamaicans, with an inner-city housing programme that provided home ownership for hundreds of lower-income families financed by the National Housing Trust (NHT). The NHT also financed and developed the urban recreational oasis of Emancipation Park in New Kingston for the enjoyment of people from all walks of life.
After a period of turbulence in the Jamaican financial sector in the late 1990s, a new regulatory framework administered by the Jamaica Deposit Insurance Corporation, was put in place to protect depositors in financial institutions. There was greater inflation stability enabling the Government to enter into memoranda of understanding with trade unions and big businesses to moderate wage demands and boost production and productivity. This facilitated the meeting of fiscal targets while also providing job security and ensuring an extended period of tranquil industrial relations in the country.
PJ Patterson presided over a modern heyday of foreign direct investment in Jamaica’s economic infrastructure including the greatest period of expansion in the tourism industry with the construction of a record number of hotels and attractions leading to an all-time high in employment creation in the industry. Concomitant with this development was the establishment of the Tourism Product Development Company and Tourism Enhancement Fund to ensure sustainability in the offerings and growth of the sector.
Mr Patterson is remembered for his meticulous preparation for an economic take-off through the promulgation of Jamaica’s Industrial Policy and transformation of the country’s physical infrastructure. The Office of Utilities Regulation was established as a superintending agency as water supplies, electricity generation and public transportation were modernised and improved. “The road to development is the development of roads” was the rubric for a very ambitious programme of major road construction, including the North Coast Highway and Highway 2000, which opened up the countryside to development and greatly reduced time and costs for cross country travel. Jamaica’s airports and seaports were massively expanded and modernised, a state-of-the-art public transport centre was built in the heart of the Kingston Metropolitan Area with smaller transport hubs constructed in major towns across Jamaica.
As a result of his deliberate people-centred development policies, Jamaica surpassed the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty, which declined by 70 per cent from just under 44 per cent in 1991 to 14.8 per cent when PJ Patterson left office 2006. This was achieved through the careful intersection of social and economic policies, thoughtful legislation and political activism. He justifies the preeminence of poverty reduction in the overall policy of his Administrations by pointing out that poverty is the greatest tax on the poor and a formidable obstacle to personal and national development.
Regional & International Affairs
Despite these significant accomplishments on behalf of the Jamaican people, in no other endeavour has Mr. Patterson distinguished himself more over many decades, than in regional and international affairs. Known for his non-confrontational style of politics, he has central to the calming of political tensions in Jamaica and other Commonwealth nations, as well as guiding international deliberations for peaceful resolution to disputes within global organisations and to settling cross border conflicts between CARICOM countries.
From the 1970s, as Chairman of the African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP)/European Economic Community (EEC) Ministerial Conference, he played a pivotal role in forging an agreement on the framework for the original Lomé Convention of 1975. This agreement, with three successor conventions, formed the cornerstone of economic relations between the European Community and the ACP countries for a quarter of a century. He has served as President and Spokesman of the ACP Ministerial Council and more recently, was integral to the negotiation of the Cotonou Agreement, which replaced the Lomé Accords; and was a key figure in fashioning the Economic Partnership Agreement that replaced the trade provisions of the Cotonou Agreement.
Mr. Patterson has chaired the Group of 15 developing nations (G15), the Caribbean Community and the Group of 77 and China, and has played lead roles in the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement and Socialist International. Of note, Jamaica was chair of the UN Security Council during his tenure as Prime Minister.
In the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, he gave strong support to Michael Manley in leading Jamaica’s major contribution to the international campaign against racial injustice, especially in southern Africa, and for the liberation of African peoples. In 2003, on the recognition of the African Diaspora as the “Sixth Region of the Continent,” PJ Patterson was accorded the accolade of being appointed “Relevant Caribbean Statesman” by the African Union.
At the Caribbean regional level, he was instrumental in establishing the mechanisms for the broadening of the Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA) into the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Later, in his capacity as Head of Government, he played a key role in the crafting of the Grande Anse Declaration which established the framework for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), He also chaired the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations, leading the region’s strategy for major international trade negotiations including the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the World Trade Organization. Tapping his expertise in law and trade matters, he steered the regional intergovernmental body toward the establishment of a Caribbean jurisprudence through the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and a borderless regional economy with the CARICOM Single Market, which came into effective in 2006.
Over the years, he has also brought his talents to bear on such matters as the establishment of the International Bauxite Association (IBA) to secure greater gains for Jamaica and other bauxite-producing countries; the enacting of the Law of the Sea and the establishment of the International Seabed Authority; the advocacy of a new international economic order and movement towards greater South-South economic cooperation; and renegotiation of the Panama Canal treaty.
Following his retirement from public office, Mr Patterson has remained actively engaged in national, regional and global affairs. Among other things, he is Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the Caribbean Research & Policy Centre Inc. (CRPC), based in Washington DC, a think-tank dedicated to in-depth research and analyses for the positioning of CARICOM states on issues relating to international trade, development, the economy, society, politics, security and the environment.
The Heads of Government of CARICOM underscored their recognition of Mr Patterson’s advocacy and leadership qualities by appointing him in February 2010 to serve as the Special Representative of CARICOM on Haiti. In this capacity, his major focus is facilitating the provision of medium and long-term assistance for the recovery, reconstruction and development of Haiti in the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake which devastated that country.
In June 2020 he was appointed Statesman in Residence at the PJ Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy at the University of the West Indies. The Centre coordinates public policy and advocacy in fostering development relations between the Caribbean and Africa. It also facilitates dialogue at the level of Heads of Government to agree on a common agenda and to initiate a programme of international cooperation among countries in Africa and its global diaspora of people of African descent.
In that capacity, Mr. Patterson is responsible for coordinating technical analysis for academic exchange and institutional collaboration in the areas of trade policy, cultural interaction, governance, climate change and other critical areas.
A divorcee, Mr. Patterson has a son, a daughter, and four grandchildren.
He is the subject of six published volumes. In December 2018, My Political Journey, Mr. Patterson’s biography was launched. The book was declared a winner in the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
His numerous honours include Jamaica’s Order of the Nation (ON); Queen’s Counsel (QC) and CARICOM’s Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC).