Mark Wignall | Audley Shaw betting on great expectations from Trump
When Finance Minister Audley Shaw told attendees at a May-berry Investment Forum held last week that US President Donald Trump and his government could be good for Jamaica it sounded like a wish wrapped in a hope and sent out on the fluttering wings of a prayer.
More than anything else it came across like political filler for a nation and an administration weighed down by an imbalance of too much bad news and not enough of the good type.
To place the matter in its full context it is useful to note that the Republican Party and the JLP share common conservative principles and in the 1980s then prime minister Eddie Seaga was the first political leader to meet with President Reagan after Seaga's JLP swept the polls in October 1980 and Reagan cleaned up the following month.
Within four years the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) was born and it allowed Caribbean countries, including Jamaica and certain Central American territories, a preferential tariff regime on goods entering the US from those regions. It was seen as a temporary 'bly' to countries with democratic governments which Reagan did not want lured into the orbit of the USSR influence and the type of closeness that the PNP's Michael Manley had with the communist dictatorship of Cuba's Fidel Castro.
This time is as good as any to remind our finance minister that as a bastardised child, our rich daddy to the north of us may not this time around be in the mood to support the 'outside pickney' or even acknowledge the paternity.
When the highly unpredictable and mostly erratic President Trump said in his nativist and protectionist inaugural address, "From this moment on, it's going to be America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families," that did not sound like an invitation to a reboot to CBI 2.0.
PROTECT OUR BORDERS
When he laid out a dystopian imagery of America and said, "We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs," I did not recall him saying "except for Jamaica and mi outside pickney, the JLP".
To be fair to Shaw his words were wisely chosen and he did not say Trump would be good for us. He said he could be good for us. Therein lies his escape clause.
If there is anything predictable about President Donald Trump it is his impulsive nature and his unpredictability so Mr Shaw may one day wake up with the good news that VP Mike Pence has decided to extend additional assistance in our fight to restore 'law and order,' a state that we last saw in the beginning years of independence in the 1960s.
As the 'law and order' president, Trump intends to fill his cabinet with men who are trigger happy and who would just love to get the chance to get rough and ready with soft targets like Jamaica and its criminal gangs.
I would suggest to some of the brighter consultants working in the ministries of Finance and National Security that they begin to formulate proposals to the US State Department that Jamaican criminal gangs are a clear and present danger to the southern border of the US. Of course, they would have to do some expert spinning, but I am certain that it could be done and sold along those lines especially if each paragraph begins with, 'According to the Monroe Doctrine ...'
It could be stated that in lieu of actual American boots on the ground in Jamaica we would prefer raw cash, say a start of US$50 million per quarter and the first tranche would be spent on rapid social intervention programmes just in the western end of the island.
I was told less than a month ago by a 'high official' who shall remain nameless that certain Jamaican names and persons are remotely vetted and cleared by Washington before a Jamaican PM is allowed to 'appoint' them to key cabinet posts here.
If one should give that plausible weight, who knows; the proposal for increased security spend in Jamaica may instead be written on the hill in Washington, D.C.