Jamaica: time for hope and renewal
On February 25, Jamaicans participated in a general election for representatives to the Lower House. Only 47 per cent of the electorate took part. Only 5,000 votes separated the two major parties, but the constituencies won represented the massive 11-seat swing for the JLP.
During the course of the campaign, I was sceptical of the commitments being offered by the JLP. By nature, I believe in incremental progression. It was not my opinion that the macroeconomics are sufficiently aligned to allow for the J$1.5-million tax-relief plan. To me it was aspirational, a worthy goal to strive for, but not one to expect early, with complete implementation. I remain of that view.
Spending the reserves generated by the gas tax is a one-time attempt to make the plan work; however, the fact the prime minister, at his installation, restated the commitment, but did so in addition to imploring us to spend within the Jamaican economy. Creating demand, increasing the multiplier effect, and spending the tax money rather than gambling exploits give rise to a glimmer of hope.
He also said that with his mandate, there would be no margin for error. This serves notice that he is prepared to do anything and everything to fulfil the commitments without damaging the macroeconomic foundation. It is very note worthy that nowhere in the address on being sworn in did he make reference to the IMF agreement. He did stress his intent to lead a government of partnerships. An expansive view would include a renegotiated IMF agreement that would facilitate the hope that has been offered. As he stated, "In all these partnerships for prosperity, there must be coordinated effort. That is my role; I will ensure that." Therein lies the hope.
The country will get a rather immediate view of his acts of building partnerships and trust, evidenced by the size and composition of the Cabinet. He again acknowledged this when he said, "We have not won a prize." Instead, the people are giving us a test." This is true.
No government can ensure the success of all its citizens. They can influence the environment, provide the support services, and offer enabling institutions available to all, But, ultimately, it is our responsibility to seek the attainment of satisfaction. This is particularly true in a country where the attainment of satisfaction means different things to different persons.
The educational system must be of sufficient quality and diversity for each to be accommodated. The housing market must cater for those with modest means and expansive means. Job opportunities for the intellectually inclined and for those who wish to pursue vocations. Jamaica has not always done that. This is the promise that Andrew Holness makes. Therein lay the urgency.
The outgoing administration of Portia Simpson Miller worked diligently and with a sense of purpose, but was shackled by the poor leadership of the outgoing prime minister.
Let us engage in a challenge. What is the extent of Portia Simpson Miller's legacy as prime minister? By legacy, I mean not just the fact that she won her seat nine elections, consecutively, and that she became the first female prime minister. The society has benchmarks and institutions that are directly attributable to the vision and implementation of a person who formally held the top post of prime minister. P.J. Patterson will forever be remembered as the highway and infrastructure visionary. Edward Seaga will live on through HEART Trust and other institutions involved in the ordering of governance. Michael Manley promulgated the ideology of democratic socialism and led the reordering of social legislation.
Norman Manley? Common Entrance Examinations that opened up education to the masses. Sir Alexander Bustamante institutionalised the trade union movement. Bruce Golding? The Dudus, Manatt and Tivoli affair.
The question remains what can we identify with Portia Simpson Miller? The country has not been well served by the stewardship of Portia Simpson Miller in person. We have had wasted years. Her legacy must include the failures of Phillip Paulwell, Anthony Hylton and the mediocrity of Peter Bunting and Bobby Pickersgill. When the country needed a reshuffling of the Cabinet, she was missing.
There are some who have always felt that she was not suited for the job. Now that her tenure as prime minister has finally ended, one is hard-pressed to name anything that she has personally contributed from that lofty position. It is time for her to leave the political stage as she has served for long enough and there is nothing to suggest any new term of her leadership would be any better. Her appeal to the mass of the people as 'Mama P' has run its course. It did not deliver a victory in 2007 or 2016. The party's annual conference is usually on the third weekend of September each year and she must now announce her intention not to seek re-election as leader of the PNP.
Allow for an orderly contest to succeed her. She must take with her to the exit gate,Phillip Paulwell, Bobby Pickersgill, Omar Davies, Peter Phillips, Paul Burke and Angela Brown Burke. The party needs to renew and rebuild.
If D.K. Duncan could see it fit to leave at this time, others who have contributed little and promoted discord must leave. This should now become a party of the future, with clear vision and definitive purpose. It cannot be a party of has-been. Jettison the relics of the 20th century. Clear out the failed ones. The 21st century is here.