Jaevion Nelson | Holness sounding right notes
Andrew Holness has had a remarkable journey over the last two or so years. It's quite fascinating to observe how much he has grown since the general election in February 2016 and the last attempt to oust him as leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). One can hardly believe that this is the same person many said was unfit - inexperienced, lacking in fortitude, and uncharismatic for the prime ministership.
I was impressed with his Budget presentation - #HopeForJamaica, which he delivered on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Most of the comments I see have been largely positive. I was struck by (1) many of the ideas he tabled to address critical issues such as housing/home ownership, crime and violence, domestic violence, and sexual violence; (2) his commitment to invest in implementation of our ideas and openness and admission that some plans are the previous Government's ideas; (3) the many references to rights; and (4) the focus on young people in order to make our independence more meaningful and to create hope for the future of this country, among other things.
Politicians have been too silent, too callous, too unbothered by the fact that young people across the length and breadth of this country are so very disillusioned and that many are eager to migrate. It always surprised me how our leaders ignore the research in this regard.
Thankfully, Holness seemingly understands how important it is to speak to creating a Jamaica where young people can feel that they can realise their dreams and achieve their fullest potential here. He gets it. How can we possibly make 'Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business' if the future leaders all want to pack up and leave?
I must say that I am thankful that the banter about the $1.5-million income tax threshold seems to be dying. Maybe now we can have more robust conversations about it. It's unfathomable that the same people who have always complained about income tax, about the massive portion of their salary that is deducted monthly, and who have suggested that we must move to more indirect taxes, are the same ones who are complaining about the increase in the threshold. I am still praying to the gods for a moratorium on divisiveness.
If not now, when? I'm not an economist, but I imagine that we won't see/feel the impact of the increase any time soon, not until we get our economic affairs in order.
Notwithstanding the noise and distractions, there are some genuine concerns that Holness and his Cabinet should be careful not to be oblivious to. I believe he should ensure that the minister of finance outline very clearly what measures the Government will take to mitigate the impact that the increase in the threshold will have on the poor and vulnerable. I highly doubt merely increasing PATH benefits is sufficient.
One sincerely hopes that the plans Holness laid out will all be implemented. I reckon this would be quite a legacy (something every politician must endeavour to leave even if they don't have job descriptions).
To be truly different (I imagine he wants to be), Holness should develop and publish a matrix of all the plans/ideas he announced with contact information of the lead person, agency and ministry responsible for each, and most important, a timeline for commencement and completion of each initiative.
Further, he should work with local and international partners, through Partnership for Prosperity (formerly Partnership for Jamaica), to capacitate a cadre of persons in civil society and youth groups to do effective budget monitoring throughout the year. This should be accompanied with a user-friendly website and app that is free to access and would allow any citizen to find out how much money is allocated for specific activities, how much is spent, etc.
This would be truly game-changing. It would demonstrate a kind of transformational leadership and maturity that we have been hankering for all this time.
Jamaica needs a partnership for it to grow and live up to it's true potential. It's going to need all hands on deck regardless of our political affiliations. It requires a national consensus that we have an obligation to the children and young people of this country.