Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Jaevion Nelson| PNP’s seeming resistance to accountability and transparency

Published:Thursday | September 1, 2016 | 9:00 AM

The People's National Party (PNP) arguably facilitated lots of good development during its last term in office, but failed miserably where good governance is concerned. Kudos to the former prime minister, Hon Portia Simpson Miller, and Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips and the rest of their team on a job well done. The PNP should, however, resist the urge to engage in all this banter about governance considering all that is now unfolding, and is seemingly allowed to unabated at least in the public's eye.

The data show that though GDP did not grow by much, the Portia Simpson Miller-led government was successful in its macroeconomic stabilisation and fiscal consolidation programme, having maintained a large primary fiscal surplus at 7.5% of GDP for two consecutive years. They successfully reduced youth unemployment (though marginally), increased the budgets for early childhood and special education and justice. We could boast about having one of the best performing stock exchanges in the world, public debt-to-GDP was reduced by almost 10% and inflation was at a historic low.

By February 2016, it seemed almost likely that the PNP no doubt would be successful at the polls in the general election later that month. Everything seemed to be perfectly laid out. Several news articles in the local and international press praised the administration for the tremendous work they've done and progress made, which, if continued would result in more growth and development over time. Perhaps it is for this reason the PNP's defeat was such a surprise to many of us. It might also be why so many Comrades are seemingly resigned in anger and bitterness about what took place on February 25. It's almost as if people are intimating that the public is ungrateful for what the PNP had done for the country.

 

Important lesson

 

The important lesson here for all of us, and especially the current administration and those who desire to hold office, is to recognise that development is not good enough if governance is shoddy.

Yes, the poor uneducated children and their families would do well with educational programmes. But if they had no opportunity to have a say in the design and implementation of the programmes that they should benefit from, then there will be no buy-in, no ownership, and they most certainly may not even make use of the opportunity afforded to them.

Regrettably, the PNP government was characterised by many Jamaicans as non-transparent and unaccountable. They were seen as poor communicators and seemingly did not consult with the people as much as they should have. I was reminded of this view recently as I devoured a piece of chicken and eavesdropped on a conversation about corruption, leadership, and accountability among three very 'ordinary' Jamaican men. This kind of politics does not work in today's society. No one will re-elect you. Everyone will want to see your back. Undoubtedly, people want development but that isn't enough in this era. They want to feel included in the efforts to improve their livelihood and well-beingto ensure their development. They want to be assured that their government listens and look out for them, no matter what.

The seeming resistance to accountability and transparency while in government is the same dilemma that is apparently facing the PNP now. The defiance is quite harmful and must be shunned. The PNP must accept the fact that governance in the party is also a national issue and not merely for those privileged with a title and to be in the officer corps. We deserve to be apprised about what is happening and how issues are being addressed/resolved whether we are officers of the party or not. It's no longer enough for the leaders of the party to dodge questions around how it is addressing a matter.

It was the same kind of resistance and arrogance that made one of our former prime ministers appear unfit for the office over time.

The current prime minister, Hon Andrew Holness, should take note. He is doing an impressive job thus far but must take care he doesn't make the same mistakes his predecessors made.

• Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.