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Aubyn Hill | Electioneering and the poverty gap

Published:Friday | September 11, 2015 | 9:00 AMAubyn Hill

Jamaican taxpayers and ordinary citizens are constantly told that the economic conditions in the country have improved significantly since the current PNP administration took charge of the country's affairs in January 2012.

Given the way the government ministers, spokespersons and some supporters tell it, the country is positively booming.

Passing the excruciating pain-inducing IMF tests is a major highlight of the extensive narrative and talking points. Stabilising the economy - whatever that means to the government speakers and high-taxpaying or unemployed hearers - is another feather the Government names in a quiver of feathers.

Accolades from non-resident and or non-voting foreign institutions and their executives are other free-floating wafers which the Government hopes will add weight to its featherweight arguments. But things must be put in perspective; the election season is upon us.

So who are most happy with the Government? Foreign bankers are very happy. They earn whopping arrangement and other fees with creative and rather esoteric names from poor Jamaican taxpayers, who can't afford basic foodstuff for their children, or find the cash for back-to-school expenses.

Dr Phillips tells us, and would want us to believe, that while a main objective of the IMF's austerity and no-growth-inducing fiscal-consolidation plan is to reduce our unmanageable debt burden and recurring high interest expense, borrowing new expensive capital market funds to extinguish very low-interest rate, friendly debt is very good for the country.

Never mind that the friendly debt could have been engineered to feed export and employment growth in Jamaica. Meanwhile, local and foreign institutional lenders to the Government are visibly happy as they will earn very attractive income, almost in perpetuity, from Jamaican taxpayers at attractively, to them, high interest rates.

This week, Senator Mark Golding, our justice minister, went considerably further with his claims. At a recent political meeting he delved into finance, economics and politics in a couple of concise sound bites. He claimed that the monolithic business community - his perception - strongly supports the PNP and, according to him, they of that community think Jamaicans would be 'mad' to change the Government in the next election.

This is a quite preposterous claim made on behalf of the entire business community, but especially so from the mouth of a minister of justice.

Does Minister Golding - and members of the business community which he claimed in that same speech to know so well - really believe that a Jamaican citizen who chooses to vote against the government in which he serves would simply be mad to do so? They would be devoid of their senses to exercise their fundamental democratic right to vote against the current PNP Government that has heaped endless and increasing hardships on them year after year since the beginning of 2012 and, incredibly, for 22 of the last 26 years? Really, minister?

 

HEALTH CARE HURTS

The health ministry has inflicted serious hurt to many Jamaicans in the last almost four years since the present Government came to power. Chik-V is still hurting people and the pain is enhanced because the Government had ample warning against this epidemic and did little or nothing to prepare the population, or to take the necessary steps to prevent the outbreak of the disease in the country.

The outbreak of chik-V affected all aspects of life in Jamaica - including the reduction in crime statistics. It also had massive negative effects on our schools and the education of our students; it stretched to breaking point many aspects of our heath-service arrangements and treatment of sick people; it stressed out many scores of doctors and nurses; and it degraded the economic performance of businesses and the already low productivity in Government.

This disease made us poorer and the Government and the minister of health could have and should have taken steps to keep it out of Jamaica. But you won't hear that admission in the PNP's talking points.

There was national shame and death which hovered, and still hovers, over many of our health-care facilities. It is reported regularly in the popular press that patients waited for days and weeks to see a physician. Some are reported to have died in the waiting area of clinics and hospitals; others in their homes. But these suffering poor and poor sufferers would be mad to vote against the PNP?

 

FLIGHT OF FANTASY

There appears to be a serious reality gap among ministers of this PNP government. Again, this week - it has been a busy week for talking ministers - the de facto minister of growth, Anthony Hylton, was pressing the people of his constituency to believe in him and return him as their member of parliament.

Like a broken record, he repeated his quite unbelievable logistics hub story, yet again. The radio clip I heard made no mention of the $5-billion 'Crown and Anchor' deal. His ministerial colleagues, not the prime minister, seemed to have pulled him away from this particular big-number flight of fantasy.

The murder rate that we are experiencing is no fantasy. By Wednesday of this week, RJR reported that 818 people were killed since the beginning of the year, of which 30 were children and five were policemen and women. Karachi in Pakistan is arguably the most murderous city in the world, which recorded 3,000 persons killed of a population totalling 20 million. Jamaica's entire population is about 2.7 million, which gives the country a higher per capita death rate than the bustling Karachi.

The absence of jobs, severe shortage of money in the economy, the health services of much avoidable death and trauma, the spreading poverty, the high and increasing close-to-home murders, and a solidly no-growth economy all make for serious reflection on the Government that is responsible.

It is not bad or mad to hold the responsible Government and its ministers accountable for the results of their performance.

 

Aubyn Hill is CEO of Corporate Strategies Ltd and chairman of the Economic Advisory Council of the opposition leader.

Email: writerhill@gmail.com
Twitter: @hillaubyn
Facebook: facebook.com/hillaubyn