Tue | Mar 20, 2018

Where’s political traction for growth agenda?

Published:Wednesday | January 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM

In JLP circles and among many outside that party, it is a rarity to mention 'economic growth' and 'PNP administration' in the same sentence. The facts seem to be on the side of those who cite the long ride of the PNP from 1989 to 2007 during which the administrations chalked up an average of 1.0% growth per annum.

At a time when the global economy was humming and growth spilled over into many regional economies, it somehow missed us. Tie that in with the economic disaster that was the Michael Manley-led PNP from the time he declared the party, and the path democratic socialist from 1974 to 1980, and the wrecking ball that brought about FINSAC in the mid-1990s and one will easily discern that a PNP in power is not very big on policies that generate growth in the economy.

Now, the World Bank has projected 2.4% average growth per annum over the next three years, and instead of the PNP hierarchy and its orange-shirted Comrades celebrating the new agenda, what is being manifested is disorder threatening to descend into chaos with the Pryce-Redman battle still unsettled in the minds of their supporters and others threatening to resort to the hangovers of 2015.

For the first time in quite a long time, the nation is now witness to the JLP hierarchy standing as a united body, with even its supporters surprised at the new stance. It is likely that it is all a great acting job, but that is the essence of politics. Somebody in the business of awarding excellence in the thespian arts needs to present the JLP with its well-needed shining plaque.

The spectacle is, of course, not complete until it is noted that the ruling PNP is now the party with divisive behaviour on display.

It seems to me that even Comrades have missed the good news about the weak but welcome growth in 2015 and the somewhat more impressive projections for the next three years.

I think that when the PNP's poor antecedents on developing growth policies are taken into consideration, the projections are seen as part of two factors. Growth in spite of another PNP administration and, this time around, only because Jamaica is operating under the softly spoken voice and big stick of the IMF. Add to that the lag time to significant job creation and it could be that the PNP doesn't want to begin the crowing until all the factors are properly assimilated and can be processed into a believable message for a line or two in its next election manifesto.

Bear in mind that the last election manifesto about 'joined-up government' was dead on arrival and it is not even mentioned anymore in PNP circles. People like Anthony Hylton of Industry, Investment and Commerce sold it to me and I bought it hook, line and sinker because the pitch was so excellent. But it was all words coming from a dead ministry.




Readers may be unaware that there is a powerful faction inside the PNP and in the wider governmental administration that has been doing more than suggesting that Portia make her absence available in time for the next general election.

Her inability to marshal the weak secretariat, the 'bad' influence of Portia loyalists on the rest of the party, and, most important, Portia morphing into an albatross around the neck of the PNP instead of her being the PNP's rocket engine have been major considerations.

The love that is still there for her, though no longer in bucketfuls, would like to convince her that an election win under her leadership is not the guarantee that it was in, say, August of last year when the JLP's implosions and fissions were just as guaranteed.

A more united JLP even with A-list actors among its members was never factored into the PNP's playbook. Plus, it seems that the more united the JLP appears to be is the more PNP supporters sense their own strength in extracting from the PNP hierarchy what they, the people in the trenches, are demanding.

At this time, many in the PNP hierarchy have been made captive to the whims and fancies of the PNP grass-roots supporters. At one level, that is healthy, but it also tells us that formers levels of unity in the PNP were nothing more than skilfully managed dictatorships under strong leaders.

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