Sun | Aug 20, 2017

2015 could have been worse

Published:Wednesday | December 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Our island was not hit by a hurricane and neither were we rattled to the core by the earthquake that our seismologists have been warning will happen, if we are lucky, later than sooner.

We were neither encumbered nor liberated by a general election in 2015 as the ruling People's National Party (PNP) felt its feet growing cold and was, instead, forced to seek out any opportunity for warmth in the unknown that will be 2016.

As the medical community abroad celebrates breakthroughs like gene editing and immunotherapy drugs in the fight against aggressive strains of cancer, our public health system limped along and experienced one of its worst years. Never far from skirting close to the edge of chaos, our public health system brought about the deaths of 19 neonates by exposure to two bacterial infections in what came to be known as the 'dead babies scandal'.

In the end, the prime minister yielded to public pressure and removed Minister Fenton Ferguson from his role atop the health ministry. One did not get the sense that he was saddened and publicly remorseful,. especially as he explained that "they were not babies in the real sense". That was the most unkind cut of all.

Considering that no forensic audit has been attempted, much less considered, in an effort to determine the national death toll from the chik-V outbreak in 2014, one suspects that Ferguson's poor handling in preparing the nation for the painful malady, along with his ministry's suppression of the release of a general health audit, were just too much for his boss Prime Minister Simpson Miller as the dead babies scandal rocked the nation.

 

Loyalty over accountability

 

Minister Ferguson did not actually take as big a hit as it could have been were he operating in the private sector. For his loyalty and, I am certain, service to the cause of the PNP, he was shunted to labour and social security, where it will not be lost on many that he wields significant influence and power as it relates to the overseas work programme on large farms abroad.

It was a pretty good year for financial entities and big business in general as many companies celebrated super profits, the stock market went through the roof and the value of our dollar continued its race to the bottom. All this while income equality was on full view as the economy worked quite well for the lucky few and the hint of growth did little to convince the man and woman at street level that we were on the right path.

The king of the hill was, of course, the IMF, which forced us into the fiscal prudence needed to ensure that its loan agreement (Extended Fund Facility) with Jamaica was bankable and we were in a position to pay back what our years of profligate spending had forced on us.

In rushing to a 2015 election that evaporated just before its moment of consummation, many were not sure if the nation was going or coming. What was plain, and becoming clearer as the PNP administration back-pedalled on a 2015 election timetable, was that early 2016 had lurking for us a big package of unpleasantness, and the administration was scared to open that package BEFORE an election. Plans were laid out, but time has caught up with the planners. The political reality is at hand.

 

STILL NO ORDER

 

Violent crime and carnage on our roads, and a PhD commissioner of police just as nonplussed as the rest of us, were all signals that the line between order and 'ketchy shubby' continues to be a feature of public administration in this country.

Many of our leaders, I believe, mean well, but we do not pay them to mean well. They must, instead, get the job done while displaying a level of trust that will attract the wider participation of the general public. We did not do a good job in 2015 in continuing to build that bridge.

As bad as things are for many in Jamaica, we did not have a problem with migrants breaching our borders. Why should they when so many of our brightest and best continue to leave for the USA where increasingly, and based on current GOP rhetoric, they are destined to become third-class citizens.

As bad as things are for the many in Jamaica, those with money smarts did well by increasing their net worth on the stock market. Young professionals and community organisers must take greater advantage of this next year.

It could have been worse for us had the local version of Donald Trump dared to show his head in 2015.

- Mark Wignall is a political analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.