Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Election no-brainer

Published:Sunday | January 31, 2016 | 1:00 AM

The country is about to embark on the marvellous exercise of a fair and free election. The very nature of an election that has the capacity to peacefully change the government is something of which we should all be proud. Whether or not one chooses to exercise the right, we will, singularly and collectively, experience the benefits, pride and challenge that are complementary to this election. Let us rejoice in the opportunity.

Pride in the electoral exercise should spur us to analyse the offerings and experiences of both contestants. The JLP is on the outside hoping to come in from the cold. This week, I will propose a review of the JLP's claim to regain power. Next week, I will visit the PNP's claim of the retention of power.

"It's the economy, stupid" was a phrase made popular by former president of the USA, Bill Clinton. It is most applicable here.

The JLP downplays the role played by Peter Phillips, as minister of finance. He has not, in the party's reasoning, done enough to benefit the vast majority of the population. However, what he has done has given the economy, the nation, the ability to make the hard choices to put us on a far better trajectory for the future.

The JLP came into government in 2007 with the debt at J$900 billion. When the governing party demitted office in 2011, the debt was nearly J$1.7 trillion. We were regaled by the then minister of finance that we were well situated to ride out the worst recession in 70 years. The NIR was down because the custodian spent like the proverbial drunken sailor. The promises made and kept to the public sector in relation to their wage demands and the promises made and kept of no user fees in the health sector and no tuition fees in the education system proved to be too much for the country to chew and digest. We are still suffering from the resulting indigestion. Yes, the dollar did not devalue as much, but nothing was done to provide backing in the form of increased productivity. The JLP threatens to repeat that performance should it form the next government after the upcoming February 29, 2016 election (you got my prediction).

 

FAILED THE PEOPLE'S TEST

 

The weight to be applied to the statements of the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and the WTO must be checked against those statements from the JLP. The JLP believes the Government follows slavishly and without murmur to these bodies. The Labourites would promote 'growth', which may come in direct opposition to the dictates of the organisations. Recall the JLP statements that "you passed the IMF test, but fail the peoples' test". A JLP government would likely jeopardise the economic stability and gain for cheap populism. Has the JLP of 2016 emerged from the ashes of the PNP of the 1970s?

The utterances of the business leadership in Jamaica and elsewhere must be noted. The business community has traditionally been the proponent of unfettered capitalism, with the most minimal of government interference. How things and times have changed?

The business community is trumpeting loud and clear, "It's the economy, stupid." Profits are up, the stock market is the best performing in the world, and overseas investors are happy with what is unfolding here. The amount of money in circulation over the last holiday period created such record demands for the protein staple of the society, chicken meat. The JLP made the grand introduction to fish back, but the country could not meet the demand for chicken meat. What a contrast? The confidence level has never been higher, as reported by the quarterly surveys that measure this.

 

RIPE FOR GROWTH

 

Now the country is building more physical facilities for the BPO sector. Michael Lee-Chin reiterated, "The country is ripe for growth and entrepreneurship. There are so many opportunities. The country is ready to take off." The JLP, on the other hand, speaks to more consumption and no particularly well-laid-out plan for expansion of job creation opportunities. When asked about its plan, the lame response is: "We have no responsibility to tell the Government what to do." The nation is to accept on blind faith, at this time, the probability that the Labour Party will create jobs, just because it says so. Do you have that much faith in them?

Let us look at the leadership of the JLP. Andrew Holness' fortune since being elected leader has seen peaks and valleys. There is no structured, well-thought-out, first-rate presentation of the party's plans.

One must take a close look at the present leader of the JLP. His job experience has been almost exclusively political: member of parliament, minister of education, and prime minister for two months. His private-sector employment was at a social-welfare institution - VOUCH. The period he spent being mentored by Edward Seaga was all in preparation for politics.

Where is his growth and development to lead a team running an enterprise with a budget of over J$800 billion, the Government of Jamaica? Are we likely to elect a prime minister who will be a ventriloquist? This is the leader that had to deal with the presigned resignation letters of his senators. Collectively and singularly, the eight opposition senators, many of whom are lawyers all engaged in common enterprise with their leader.

When the matter made its way through our courts, the leader of the Opposition was the object of sharp, pointed language for his breach. He breached the Constitution of Jamaica for political expediency. He seeks to be rewarded with leadership of the Government of Jamaica. Your choice.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.