Sun | Dec 17, 2017

Editorial | A Bunting-Golding tango?

Published:Monday | October 2, 2017 | 12:00 AM

There are plenty of issues to be resolved over Peter Phillips' shadow Cabinet, but there are also a few notable portfolio allocations that raise interesting questions about how a People's National Party (PNP) administration would pursue the development of the Jamaican economy.

The most intriguing of these assignments is Mark Golding to shadow Audley Shaw at the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, and Peter Bunting as the spokesman on industry, investment and competitiveness. The signal is that, not unexpectedly, it has been carved out as an area for special focus.

The decision, though, on the face of it, also carries the artful calculations of internal party politics. Dr Phillips may have been covering his flanks.

Both men are among the most gifted on the PNP's team and know their way well around the world of business and finance. Either, we believe, would have been comfortable, in the sense of competent, in the other's job. Indeed, they were co-founders and partners in a successful merchant bank, of which theirs accounted for two-thirds of its name: Dehring, Bunting & Golding, which was acquired by Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia. Mr Bunting subsequently co-founded another successful financial enterprise, Proven Investments.

Messrs Bunting and Golding, also presumed to be good friends and politically supportive of each other, served in the PNP 2012-2016 administration, holding, respectively, the portfolios for national security and justice. It was speculated that Dr Phillips might have assigned the finance portfolio - a job the new PNP leader held during their last administration and to which, with the support of International Monetary Fund oversight, he is credited with bringing fiscal stability - to Mr Bunting, a career investment banker, rather than Mr Golding, who, by training, is a lawyer.

Dr Phillips may have gone for the option he chose in part because Mr Bunting, who has made known his leadership ambitions, is seen as a potential challenger, who would have been awarded an intrinsically high-profile bully pulpit. In the event, in Mr Golding he not only has the option of a man with a sharp intellect, who is knowledgeable about the subject area, but his tenure as minister and his interventions in the Senate have shown he is consumed by detail.

Mr Golding is expected to soon enter the House of Representatives, following his almost inevitable victory in an imminent by-election in South St Andrew, a PNP safe seat from which Omar Davies, himself a former finance minister, has retired. Mr Golding's penchant for detail and facts is expect to lead to intense debate on policy and tactics with Finance Minister Audley Shaw, known for his quick wit and debating skills.

 

Play tag

 

In this process, there is an expectation that Mr Bunting and Mr Golding will attempt to play tag as the PNP explores, it is speculated, a revised approach to economic management - with Mr Golding concentrating primarily on fiscal and monetary issues, while Bunting channels broader reform and ways to make the economy more efficient and to drive growth.

While Dr Phillips won kudos for his management of the economy and putting Jamaica's high debt on a downward trajectory, significant growth has eluded the country. The current Andrew Holness administration is hoping to break the logjam with a new superministry for creation and economic growth, which has most key agencies under its umbrella.

Dr Phillips, it appears, believes the Holness model ministry for driving investment is too large and unwieldy. It seems to be hoping that Mr Bunting can inspire an approach that enhances competitiveness and creates an environment that unleashes a wave of foreign and domestic investments, including among small and medium-sized businesses, which he believes is the basis for economic transformation.