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Peter Espeut: Sticking to the plan

Published:Friday | July 10, 2015 | 7:00 AM

Modern management, whether in the public or private sector, is based on planning - strategic planning. You set goals and targets, then you agree on strategies to get there, then you make your plans, and stick to them.

Jamaica is not short of policies or plans; what we are poor at is implementation. Either we are easily distracted from what the plans demand, or we depart from the plan because it was flawed from the beginning.

In 2000, Jamaica signed on to achieving the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. How did we do? What have we achieved over the last 15 years? Have we halved extreme poverty and hunger? Have we achieved universal primary education, and ensured environmental sustainability?

We need to get a full report. We need to look at our report card, and we need to rate ourselves honestly.

In 2009, the Planning Institute of Jamaica prepared 'Vision 2030' at great expense, the 'road map' for making 'Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business'. We have 15 years left on this one. How are we doing? How far along the road are we to attaining the established goal of achieving developed-country status by 2030?

We need to get a full report. We need to look at our report card, and we need to rate ourselves honestly.

the PNP's 2011 manifesto

In December 2011 - 42 months ago - the People's National Party (PNP) won the 11th general election since Independence. As part of its campaign for that election, the PNP published a manifesto setting out its plans, and stating why Jamaicans should vote for them. If you are committed to attaining the MDGs, and to achieving Vision 2030, every election manifesto should take you nearer. I wish!

The very first words in the PNP's Manifesto 2011 under the chapeau 'Restoring Trust' are: "The People's National Party (PNP) is opposed to all forms of corruption, whether in public or private life, and will continue to be resolute in the implementation of measures to effectively deal with this very serious issue."

What a good start. The trouble is, we know that talk is cheap, for when faced with breaches or procurement guidelines or nepotism by party stalwarts, the reflex reaction is being resolute in supporting them.

In the section titled 'Current Economic Position', the "PNP Plans and Strategies" have been faithfully followed. The party promised to "negotiate a new medium-term agreement with the IMF", to "reduce wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP", and committed themselves to "public-sector pension reform, given the unsustainable burden of pension obligations on the budget". These are not conditionalities imposed on Jamaica by the 2013 IMF agreement, but undertakings the PNP gave before it won the election.

In its 2011 Manifesto, the PNP outlined strategies for "Repositioning the Economy for Growth". It said: "We have identified energy and information and communication technology as overarching sectors to reposition the economy for growth." The PNP promised to reduce the price of electricity to consumers - particularly to the manufacturing sector, by, among other things, expanding the use of renewables, particularly solar energy.

JEEP programme

There has not been much progress in this area. The PNP seemed to believe that Jamaica would achieve economic growth merely by computerising already existing industries. Their major employment-creation strategy was JEEP - the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme. Looking back, maybe we can say that the PNP's proposed strategies to achieve economic growth were inadequate, and, therefore, it is no surprise that in 2015 we are finding economic growth elusive. The problem was in the initial inadequate visioning and planning.

The promises made for the mining sector are interesting. Among other things, the PNP promised to restore full production at Alpart and Kirkvine as quickly as possible, to ensure environmental 'Best Practices' across operations, and to ensure that mining companies rehabilitate lands within three years after they have been mined. Great promises! Still waiting.

As far as water is concerned, the manifesto says: "Action will be taken to maximise the volume of water available and the improvement of water quality. ... The Government will continue to support the expansion of water supply to the Jamaican population."

The plan is weak, and, even if implemented in full, will not take us very far towards achieving the MDGs, or achieving First-World status. Nevertheless, I hope that by the time the next general election comes around, Jamaicans will judge the performance of the PNP by what it said it would do in its 2011 manifesto. It has 18 months left to do it all.

- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and environmentalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.