Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Will the PM backslide from IMF dogma?

Published:Friday | October 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller makes her way across the grounds of King's House at the annual Independence Day ceremony on August 6, 2014. Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer

All imperfect Christians, and certainly most self-respecting ones, will tell you that backsliding happens most often in one of three situations.

First, when one is exposed to tantalising temptation and one stands and gazes like David at Bathsheba (Uriah's wife) rather than run, like Joseph from Potiphar's wife.

Second, when circumstances like physical and psychological pain, or pressure from family members - or political party officials and members - cause one to change course from the original or agreed path of behaviour.

And third, when one simply drifts too far from the fold, shepherd or philosophy and adopts another form of behaviour that is contrary in morality or philosophy to the person's original and publicly expressed belief.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, the lady many in Jamaica affectionately call 'Sista P', will be under severe pressure to change course away from the IMF programme. She will be tugged in different directions by influential members of her Cabinet and wider in her political party.

Some will tempt her with the message that when 73 per cent of Jamaicans indicate, in a scientifically organised poll by this newspaper, that the country is going in the wrong direction and her personal popularity has fallen noticeably, she will have to change course.

They will begin to tell her that Dr Peter Phillips and his technocrats and prominent friends in the business sector are leading the party away from its socialist roots - how ironic it would be were such an accusation to be put against Peter Phillips! - and that poor people are suffering more and more for it. This second type of temptation can be appealing.

BITTER MEDICINE

One can sympathise with the prime minister. She was enticed, one suspects, reluctantly by the IMF crew and Dr Phillips and his team when she took office and realised that the bitter medicine she denied on the campaign trail was all that was in the governance cup she had won.

Worse, the IMF required that the contents be given to the Jamaican people otherwise they would provide no funding to the country, and no other lenders, including other multilaterals, would lend us a dollar without the IMF's approval.

Our prime minister had to put whatever thoughts she had about running from the IMF Madame behind her and allow herself to agree to the IMF financial morality and its consequences.

And the consequences have been harsh. The necessity of trying to put our fiscal house in order has meant severe cuts in government recurrent and capital spending, delayed payments to contractors and others, and the significant increase in tax collection has caused ordinary Jamaicans to be caught in a financial vice that is leading to more and more hardship, hunger and humiliation.

People cannot pay their bills and a simple emergency spells disaster and poverty for most families.

The IMF sent their managing director and international financial and media star to take the prime minister and her finance minister public so that there will be public disgrace - if not outcry - should she, the perceived doubter, decide to backslide.

DRIFTING FROM POLITICAL FOLD

Now the real fight for the prime minister's poli-tical and philosophical soul will be joined. Already, her party's General Secretary Paul Burke has come close to 'dissing' major People's National Party (PNP) luminaries and Cabinet ministers when he was asked by the media to respond to The Gleaner-Bill Johnson poll findings.

If The Gleaner's poll result were jolting with responses from about 1,200 person, randomly selected, a less scientific but with responses from 7,954 persons in an online Observer poll, 84 per cent of the participants said they do not believe that Jamaica is better today than almost three years ago when Mrs Simpson Miller and her PNP administration came to power.

This is enough to make any prime minister with a strong socialist background, faced with a new-liberal set of increasingly unpalatable IMF-concocted fiscal medicine that is causing political discontent, to jump ship and backslide.

Many in her party will be telling her that she has wondered too far from the fold, some will use this to try to clip Dr Phillips' political and social ascendancy.

They will point to her perceived political base, the suffering poor, and highlight her - but a lot of it, theirs as well - risk of alienating the poor with IMF policies. The radicals in this faction will imply that she has backslidden.

Dr Phillips, on the other hand, will be warning her of the grave danger of backsliding from her publicly endorsed IMF programme and policies.

Let us see if the prime minister will disregard the very damning poll results, stay backslidden from her socialist doctrine and upset many of the PNP faithful, or follow her finance minister and The Gleaner's admonition to stay the IMF's course and abide by its ever-increasing restrictive rules.

Aubyn Hill is CEO of Corporate Strategies Ltd and chair of the opposition leader's Economic Advisory Council.Email: writerhill@gmail.comTwitter: @HillAubynFacebook: facebook.com/Corporate.Strategies