Tue | Oct 17, 2017

How about a coalition of ideas?

Published:Monday | March 14, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica's current political situation doesn't lend itself to a coalition government. However, both sides possess some ideas for trying to tackle serious and refractive national problems worthy of consideration.

I do not expect both sides to readily agree and cooperate for the common good. Political parties have a way of rubbishing their 'opponent's' ideas and sabotaging one another. However, Jamaica has been existing from one major crisis to another for decades, and sometimes a change of administration brings with it significant policy shift that could inject new ideas for recovery and growth.

The accustomed way of putting politics first, or, at the very least, high on the list, is not working. We had to hand over the management of our country to foreign entities to save us from ourselves. It's not that we didn't have the brains to figure out what's needed to be done, and it's not that we didn't have the wherewithal to get it done. Governments are not able to take the tough decisions without being paralysed by fear of losing that all-important 'political power'.

 

WORKING FOR COMMON GOOD

 

Both major parties should cooperate on ideas and not only as bipartisan groups of individuals in the Upper or Lower Houses of Parliament working out problematic legal decisions or on hearings or inquiries, but as ministers and shadow ministers putting their heads together for the common good. Even if they don't agree on one solution or another, they may come up with a third solution that could be workable.

There are certain words that I believe should be retired from being used under certain circumstances. One such word is 'Opposition' (when it refers to that group of politicians tasked with holding the Government answerable to the people of a country and who stands ready to take the reins of management). 'Opposition' denotes antagonism, disagreement, obstruction; and we certainly see that in the way that people in opposition do their job.

There are several areas that beg for cooperation, however. National security, finance and health spring to mind readily. The only real stipulation should be that participants do not engage along party lines or with party agendas. They need to go into their brainstorming sessions with open minds, willing to consider each other's positions and any other position that may be workable.

For instance, on the matter of no-user-fee health care, it was obviously a political idea that had to be defended for political reasons. It is failing miserably and causing suffering and loss of lives. This administration has no intention of rescinding it and, during his inauguration speech, after stating, "Our Government will ease your tax burden ...", Andrew Holness snuck in this announcement of a new 'tax', "... a national health insurance scheme, your health care".

 

NOT THE WAY

 

I'm very concerned that the same bunch of taxpayers will end up supporting everyone else, including those within the thriving and lucrative, informal commercial system. There needs to be a lot of collaboration to come to a better solution than simply instituting a new statutory deduction.

I am actually looking forward to that expected magnificent and spellbinding performance scheduled for next month. It features the current prime minister as he illustrates how he will magically give up billions in taxes without harming the economy. This is the same Jamaica in which desperation led the previous administration to institute a minimum business tax (MBT). The MBT must be paid by every registered company even if they are operating at a loss. Collaboration is sorely needed on the economy.

The coalition of ideas negates the possibility of some private entities playing one administration against the other or waiting for a regime change. For instance, if banks saw both political parties coming together to embark on a sustained campaign to reduce that ridiculous 'spread' (between savings and lending rates), they would know that they are in for a sustained fight and are more likely to capitulate.

We need a new paradigm for solving our many problems. I believe that, if both political parties collaborate, we will have the best chance of success.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.