Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Forget fish back in eucalyptus oil

Published:Wednesday | March 25, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Ruddy Spencer doesn't need a column to say how underwhelming he thinks Andrew Holness' speech was, because cutting a sleep was commentary enough. But unlike Ruddy and some others in Parliament, I stayed (mostly) awake.

I think Andrew did well enough right up until he wandered, lost, dazed, and confused, into the economic part of his presentation. That's when disingenuity reared its head, even to the point of another species of 'fish' argument coming back to Parliament. This time it's about 'fish back'.

Look here, man: It's time to put an end to this fish business once and for all. From J.C. Hutchinson, the shadow spokesperson on fishery, brought up this matter years ago, it's been a recurring theme.

Anyway, I thought Andrew had useful comments about education, security, and health. His theme was that we have to put some things in place if we're serious about moving from poverty to prosperity, and all through this first part of his presentation he was scoring runs.

Actually, I felt he was slapping it out of Sabina when he touched the note that there are certain cultural practices that we've inherited or adopted that aren't taking us anywhere fast. There was even an element of courage in opposing the cultural cognoscenti and stating forthrightly that we have to teach the children English. He also reproposed a national ID system and mandatory DNA samples from arrestees. All good.

But then he veered off to follow in Audley's wake and carry the simplistically populist line that the fiscal austerity demanded by good governance, and now associated with the IMF programme, is some alien mandate representing a governmental mistake. This is completely wrong, and makes no sense coming from a former prime minister who very well knows why he promised "bitter medicine".

Andrew is faced with the following problem: What to do as an Opposition when you know perfectly well that, as government, you would have to follow the very same fiscal policies? One route is to cook up a concoction of fish back in eucalyptus oil. The other is to responsibly accept the reality, and to spend the energy and firepower pointing to where the Government is failing to drive growth. There's lots of scope for criticism on that score, for there are whole ministries that are essentially dormant.

So don't follow Audley too closely. At his best, Audley serves up ideas. At his worst, it's "Brrrrrrrrrr!", and given the recent record of dealings between him and the IMF, he's not putting the best foot forward.

 

Golding's impressive impression

 

As an aside, Mark Golding's furious-turkey-gobbler Audley Shaw impression has stuck with me. So nowadays when Audley speaks and shakes his mighty jowls, it's in the back of my mind: "Brrrrrrrrrrrrr! Brrrrrrrrrrrrr!" It's not fair, but it was unforgettable.

For instance, the elaborate apologetics about '07 to '11 amount to pointing to the supposed economic good times afforded by the stash of borrowed money that there was no plan or intention to repay. But that's the national equivalent of Olint. It wasn't a sustainable strategy.

Plus, Audley has conveniently forgotten that it was he who brought the IMF girl back to the Jamaican dance. His problem is that the girl likes Peter a lot more than him right now.

Returning to the strategy of taking IMF and World Bank money and then dodging them isn't an option. Admittedly, it's a time-tested approach, practised every time a man takes credit from a shop, then carefully plans his walking route to avoid the shopkeeper. Yes, the IDB signed a loan in December 2011. That's called taking credit from another shop on the new route. The dodgeball with the IMF was a disastrous national strategy. And we're still paying for it by their excruciating terms before re-engaging.

Unless and until someone convinces me that failing IMF tests is a better strategy than passing them, I bracket away the whining and complaining as not worth the bother.

Look at Greece. The basic difference between Jamaica and Greece is that Greece, being an EU member, has more leverage. And Greece has almost none. There, too, politicians concocted arrangements that bankrupted the country.

When Greece's creditors insisted they get their house in order, the Greeks naturally erupted in righteous indignation (as we have). Up shot Syriza, a political party cobbled together from the rump of the old communists, denouncing 'austerity' as the machination of the evil capitalist system. It successfully harnessed the unpopularity of austerity measures and villainised the EU and IMF.

Now the government, Syriza has performed some meaningless antics, created a few headlines, and latterly are having to meekly settle back to the original programme of adjustment. Their noise only made it more difficult and more costly. Is that the route we want?

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.