Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Editorial | There can be plenty in a name

Published:Sunday | December 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The default will be to criticise the Opposition for their boycott last week of the signing of the latest iteration of the multi-stakeholder compact aimed at depoliticising, and creating consensus around, critical areas of national development.

Indeed, Paul Scott, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), scolded the absence of Portia Simpson Miller, the president of the People's National Party (PNP), as "irresponsible", a dereliction of leadership and politically "petty". There is much to agree with in Mr Scott's observation. But we wonder whether he captures the entire scenario. For, as they say, it takes two to tango.

It is beyond debate that the enterprise relaunched last week - by whatever name it previously operated - has been an important forum within which the Government, the Opposition, the private sector, the labour movement and civil society discussed, and often resolved, differences on economic and related policies that otherwise might be sources of political and social tension. So, the decision by Prime Minister Andrew Holness' nine-month-old government to revive/continue the process is a good thing.

However, we believe that the Opposition has a legitimate issue of concern, deserving of more than short shrift. For names do matter and symbols are important in politics and the practice thereof.

Under the previous administration, this forum was called the Partnership for Jamaica. Mr Holness' administration adjusted that title to Partnership for a Prosperous Jamaica. That, at a glance, will be to most people -- and the Opposition will say - a politically naive or unobservant - quite an appropriate name. It encapsulates a clear mission and intent.

 

SUBLIMINAL MESSAGES

 

But the PNP sees something more. As Mrs Simpson Miller pointed out in her letter to Mr Holness, adding 'prosperous' to the name makes it ring too closely, in her party's mind, to the governing Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) prosperity slogan from its recent election campaigns.

In that regard, it is the view of the Opposition and their supporters that the administration and governing party set out to deliberately rub the PNP's nose in the slogan of their defeat, while expecting them to add legitimacy to the process. That may not have been Mr Holness' intent. But in reflection, he is likely to appreciate - if not overt - perceived subliminal messaging in the forum's new, extended name.

But even if Mr Holness and his administration don't agree with or accept these observations, there is a far more important reason they might have paused for an engagement of the Opposition ahead of the signing of the agreement. The JLP has up to four more years in the life of this administration. During that time, it will likely confront many challenges, some of which it will decide required to tough out because of its confidence in the rightness of its cause. Others will demand bipartisan agreement for resolution.

Either way, it is important that the administration and governing party save their political capital rather than expend it needlessly or fritter it away. We don't expect that the current contretemps will cost the Government much, if anything. But a word to the wise, the saying goes, is sufficient.

In the meantime, we wonder why there is need for the signing of a new agreement at every changing of an administration for an ongoing forum whose objectives remain broadly the same and involving the same institutions.