Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Politicians guessing, silently panicking

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The image of a super-confident and bubbly Portia Simpson Miller has given way to a prime minister who has played hide-and-seek for so long that she doesn't remember where she hid herself.

This is one time I feel certain that she wishes our Constitution provided a fixed election date so that she could be freed from having to make a crucial decision, especially where the outcome is not guaranteed.

Being pushed, pulled, impelled and implored would by themselves be enough pressure to break the strongest of wills, but simply being stared at and hoping for a word from her is just as psychologically taxing. It's your call, PM, and we are all waiting.

Is it next month or the next few months' time?

In the Opposition JLP, a great guessing game is being played out, and one senses that it has its own elements of urgency and maybe even a little panic. JLP members know that Portia does not have the level of freedom as she would have us believe she has in exercising 'the prime minister's pleasure' to call an election.

The business class does not like it one bit that a significant chunk of the last quarter of last year was spent in this grand guessing game, where it appeared that it was other voices in the PNP making the clarion call for a 2015 election, while the PM was simply hitching a ride on the wave of the moment.

The directions on growth this year are nowhere near the expected levels that, say, one per cent could be shaved off by jitters in the election timeline and we would not miss it. The country is not there yet. Big Business seems to like what the IMF has wrought upon us - a fiscal discipline beaten into us, and the super profits enjoyed by some will quite obviously be desired again in 2016.

The Government and the IMF have gone silent on the exchange rate, which is headed in the direction of J$121 to US$1 when previously it was determined that it would find a natural berth at $120 to one. The Bank of Jamaica needs to key us in on this further slippage. Does it have an end or a settling-off point?




Reading the tea leaves on electoral viability gives both political parties time to create their respective manifestos which, from experience, are glossy publications which concoct a near future that is never attained. But they will do it because it generates wide discussion, even where much of it is rooted in political fantasy land.

Last weekend, I had a discussion with a small group of wealthy and influential individuals who told me that they were prepared to line up behind the JLP - not necessarily because they share the philosophy (??) of the JLP, but more out of a need to assist in the leadership slide in this country.

According to one who used to be a vocal supporter of the PNP, the business class ought to band together to send a message to the political class that it has the power to create one-term administrations.

"This is not a power grab. We have done the studies and the man in the street supports this. Nothing will drive the fear into political parties as much as knowing that the timeline on judgement for performance is being shortened."

In the great guessing game, the month of February is being tossed around as if everyone and his wife have taken up space inside the prime minister's head and knows what she doesn't yet know.

As much as gen sec of the Opposition JLP, Horace Chang, has boasted that his party has the resources to go in for the long haul, I sense that the JLP would like the ruling PNP administration to complete the most painful part of the IMF dictates, because that would expose the PNP to an election loss.

The JLP has probably not cared to think through this strategy in the short to medium term, as governance under what is expected to be much harsher terms than in 2015 would also expose a JLP administration to the people's anger.

JLP leader Andrew Holness and the rest of the Labourites have been touting the 'Poverty to Prosperity' mantra, and we have nothing to judge them on but the believability of those nice-sounding words.

As one member of the business grouping who spoke to me said, "As much as we are prepared to throw funding behind the JLP at this time, should they begin to screw up quite early, we would use our powers and influence to agitate against them, and, in short measure, put back the PNP in power."

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