Wed | Jul 26, 2017

The IMF miracle

Published:Sunday | October 26, 2014 | 10:00 AM

THE CURRENT Government took office in January 2012. We are currently more than halfway through the term, but the reality is that the IMF agreement was not struck until May 2013. Since the IMF is now the de facto Government of Jamaica, let us review its period of stewardship.

Education

The education budget has been stagnant in real economic terms, and the results are reflective of this. The mantra 'grow where you are planted' is proving to be meaningless. The same traditional schools are providing the worthy candidates, the standard being five subjects passed at CSEC at a single sitting, inclusive of English language and mathematics.

The results are still dismal for the non-traditional schools. No sane, rational citizen of the country wants his or her child, irrespective of background, to attend one of these sorry institutions that pass for high schools. We recently saw the reports from some of the inner-city high schools. Recall the state of affairs of Tarrant High School discovered by then acting principal Esther Tyson just recently.

The education portfolio is still failing the society. Without the parents in traditional high schools forcing themselves and their children to attend the equivalent of two high schools at the same time by way of extra lessons, the results in these preferred institutions may well be in decline. It is well accepted that there is no poor country with an educated workforce. The past two years paint a sorry picture of our future.

Energy

The energy sector has had so many false starts that those with responsibility should be disqualified from the race. We are now in another delay mode. We are now to look to a 2015 start for a 2017 or 2018 commencing of the new sources, but let us examine this new energy policy.

The persons in charge are trumpeting a 30 per cent reduction, as if that is some great achievement. Come, let us do the maths. We currently pay 40-42 US cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity from the sole distributor. The 30 per cent reduction leads to 28 US cents per kilowatt-hour. Most of our trading partners have an energy cost in the range of 4US cents to 12 US cents. How will we ever effectively compete and grow the economy?

We refuse to seriously consider coal as the main fuel source. Yes, coal has challenges, but there is a school of thought that coal that is not treated by scrubbers is still cleaner than the heavy oil we currently utilise. We need to solve the problem of high cost of energy, not to take halfway measures. If we had leadership, from the time the energy problem presented itself, we would have installed nuclear energy along with alternative energy.

Infrastructure

The infrastructure in Jamaica is a total disaster. Trees grow in the Sandy Gully in the constituencies of West Central St Andrew, Western St Andrew and North Western St Andrew. The sewage flows at surface level. The roads are filled with craters, not potholes anymore, plenty created by the very National Works Agency, the department tasked with the job of fixing them, and the National Water Commission.

The street lights are noted for not working. The Kingston Harbour should have been dredged some time ago. No progress. The roads in the constituency of West Rural St Andrew have had breakaways unrepaired for years. The water system does not deliver. The citizens of this same constituency have had bad, untreated water provided when they do get supplies in the hills. I know of water meters that have not had any flow in more than 10 years.

Health

The health system is being reported as having patients dying on the floors of hospitals for want of attention. The staff are short of the full complement, yet there are nursing graduates who are unemployed. Medical graduates cannot secure residency places. Pharmacists not certified.

Both this administration and the previous one refuse to revisit the matter of fees for services. Strange, the ideology unites both JLP and PNP in this asinine approach. Where is the benefit of public education that would accompany the reintroduction of a nominal fee and the use of health insurance. Free health care equates to dying on hospital floors and lack of well-needed equipment and medication. The IMF budget says no to increase in the allocation for the health portfolio.

The IMF constraints, dutifully imposed by the administration, are too restrictive. The Government is hiding behind the IMF. It no longer governs in the interest of the people. We still have a debt-to-GDP ratio of 135 per cent. The growth that is so ardently prayed for is still hovering at one per cent. Not appreciably more than the 0.8 per cent average before.

Civil servants are to endure another year of wage freeze. The portfolio of agriculture has now been relegated to a department of Labour and Social Security; but it is to ramp up its six per cent of the GDP and employ more than the 70,000-80,000 persons. Enough already. We do need structural adjustment, but the population is being decimated, undereducated and allowed to die for want by extending the corrective measures.

Half the term is complete. The society is in decline. No better herring, no better barrel. The people are the test guinea pigs in the 'IMF MIRACLE'.

n Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.