Tue | Jan 23, 2018

Don’t forget to air-condition Santa Cruz!

Published:Friday | February 5, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Audley Shaw has promised more goodies than Santa Claus, writes Daniel Thwaites.

There are some staples in the firmament of amusing election promises. Herbert Hoover famously promised a chicken in every pot. Back when he was hot on the campaign trail, Newt Gingrich promised an American colony on the moon. Far more entertainingly, Dennis Kucinich, when he was campaigning for the presidency of the USA, promised to arrest George Bush.

All the same, there's nobody to make a promise quite like the people at my long-time favourite British political party: The Monster Raving Loony Party. They have crafted some incredibly wonderful political promises. For instance:

• Economy: Air bags will be fitted to the stock exchange immediately, ready for the next crash.

• Education: All university tuition fees for women would be free as we are strong believers in female intuition. (Because of gender-equality laws, we would include males as well.)

• Sport:

Cricket will be made more interesting by eliminating the use of padding (and, possibly, cricket bats).

• Public health: All dogs will be fed with fluorescent food so that nobody steps in messes in the dark.

Of course, none of the promises we get here in Jamaica are quite as colourful, although we are neck deep in fluorescent stuff.

Also, to be fair, our politicians have grown somewhat more cautious, so sometimes they issue not promises so much as vague commitments. But the effect is supposed to be the same, except that the generalised commitment has the distinct advantage of not leaving a trail of hard debts that sound like contractual terms the politician can be held to, but only indicates a general intention. Done well, you get the gain (of the promise) without the pain of being called to book.

It's rather like the drive-by profession of love my friend makes when he pops into every bar on the road to Negril (if the bartender is tender). It may just get you what you want, but it costs nothing. So when I speak of 'promises' here, that includes those vague indications that don't exactly amount to commitments.

So far, we've had some great ones. Let's see. Antigua abolished its income tax, so it took about 1.7 seconds before that was on the table here in Jamaica, and strong indications were being sent that if you vote right, the income tax might vanish here, too. Holy mackerel! That was quick!




Right about then, the promiser-in-chief, Audley Shaw, also volunteered that the minimum wage should be doubled. Like with the musing about the abolition of the income tax, no analysis was presented. What would the impact be? How many businesses might close? How many people lose jobs? Those things, of course, aren't so important when you're just letting the lady know "yuh luv har" because there's no pain.

Normally, the grubbier politicos offer up the outlandish promises while the finance minister (or the finance minister-designate), knowing the impracticality of the proposals, remains tight-lipped. Not so anymore.

And that's just the beginning. There is a promise to abolish all auxiliary fees to the schools just to ensure that once again, school administrations are reduced to penury.

Please note that the promisers know that all this will not be accomplished, not least because the promisers are also promising to abide by the promises in the IMF agreement. But that's exactly why they couldn't hold the thing together the last time.

There are promises to abolish all hospital costs, even though those were already abolished and the current administration left it that way. This, too, despite it being understood by the professionals closest to the hospitals that the fee abolition election gimmickry has been a gift to insurance companies and degraded the quality of health care.

For his part, Peter Phillips promised the creation of 100,000 jobs. Audley called it "a desperate election ploy". Phillips explained that it was actually a projection based on job creation over the last few years and the projected rate of growth. So you can imagine my shock to read that Shaw has now promised 250,000 jobs! That's 150,000 more than the number given "to drum up support by manipulating the electorate".

It's worth remembering that this is the same Shaw who says 400,000 people on the voters' list have either died or migrated. That, too, is a whopping number, seeing as how there are 1,824,410 people on the voters' list. My point is that maths is clearly and definitely Audley's strong suit and he's obviously a math genius. So you have to factor that in.

Where does all this leave us?

A few years ago when the political promises were flying thick and hard, Roger Clarke used to crack jokes about his opponents promising to air-condition Santa Cruz. They're at it again. And we're here again. So my humble petition is that they include Sav and Falmouth in the air-conditioning plans. I've been to these places recently: Dem hot, Rasta!

• Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.