Masters of propaganda
They have been in Opposition for less than two months, but the People's National Party (PNP) hierarchy have shown that they excel in that role. Being masters at the manipulation of the media, they are mounting several campaigns to convince the Jamaican public that this Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government is already a failure, despite the fact that they have been in power for only eight weeks, and have not even debated their first Budget!
Their first campaign was to repeat, over and over, that the JLP was so shocked and surprised at their unexpected victory that they simply don't know what to do. This is a classic case of what psychologists call 'projection'; it was the PNP leadership that was so shocked and surprised at their defeat that even now, they can't get over it, and they are projecting their unsettled feelings on to the JLP.
Their second project has been to demand that the JLP Government implement all its campaign promises immediately!
I remember PNP President Portia Simpson Miller, during the campaign in the lead-up to the December 2011 general election, making the laughable and unkeepable promise that a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be signed within two weeks should her party win the election. There was no new IMF agreement after two weeks, or two months, or 12 months. Evidence of how poor the JLP was in Opposition is that the PNP was able to get away with so comprehensively breaking a campaign promise, ridiculous though it was.
During that same election campaign, the PNP government promised full and unconditional removal of GCT from all electricity bills, but months after the election, still had not done so. It was only on June 6, 2012 that the Government was forced (under public pressure) to remove GCT from residential customers, while increasing GCT on commercial users from 10 to 16.5 per cent. The PNP government only partially fulfilled its promise, but the JLP was so poor in Opposition that it allowed the PNP to get away with it without severe castigation.
And when, on March 12, 2015, the minister of finance reimposed GCT on electricity for residential customers, totally reneging on the PNP's 2011 election promise, the Opposition JLP was again silent, allowing the PNP to comprehensively get away with it.
And today, on April 22, 2016, less than two months after the general election, the PNP is unrelenting in its claims that the JLP government has failed to keep its promises made two months ago. Every PNP spokesman is making public statements chastising the Government for non-performance, and ridiculing everything the Government does.
Again I say, the PNP is a runaway better Opposition than the JLP has ever been.
I would take a bet that if the JLP had implemented its election promise to exempt from income tax all persons earning under J$1.5 million, without obtaining the necessary parliamentary approval which the Budget Debate provides, the PNP would be castigating the JLP for breaching the law.
Effecting election promises takes time, as both parties well know; rushing the JLP to implement in haste is goading them into making mistakes for which they will be subsequently crucified.
A third campaign of the Opposition PNP is to misrepresent the so-called J$1.5-million promise, such that when what was promised is implemented, the public will be disappointed, and blame the JLP.
People are being told to expect "a monthly cheque for J$18,000". I heard no such promise, and it is disingenuous and mischievous to encourage people in such a falsehood.
Only persons who earn a salary from which income tax is taken can expect any tax relief. At the moment, only persons who earn a salary of more than J$592,800 per annum (J$49,400/month or J$11,400/
week) pay any income tax at all; those who earn less have no further benefit to get.
Under the JLP election promise, persons who earn a salary of up to J$1.5 million/annum (up to J$125,000/month or J$28,846/week) will pay no income tax at all; they will, of course, pay NIS, NHT and education tax, and don't be surprised if these increase when the new tax exemptions come into effect.
Of course, there will be no 'monthly cheque for J$18,000' from the government or anybody; those entitled to the tax benefit, who now see income tax taken from their salary will pay none, which is equivalent to getting a monthly cheque.
But if you paid only J$10,000 in income tax, J$10,000 will be your benefit, not $18,000. And if you paid only J$2,000 in income tax, J$2,000 will be your benefit, not $18,000.
Those of us who hold no brief for either the JLP or the PNP should be careful of propaganda, whether of the green or the orange variety.
- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and environmentalist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.