Wed | Apr 14, 2021

Editorial | What solutions are being offered for economic recovery, Minister Shaw?

Published:Saturday | February 27, 2021 | 12:10 AM

We elect politicians to lead, and leadership is especially critical during times of crisis. The coronavirus is a public health crisis which has triggered an economic one, and it requires transformational leadership to turn things around.

This current global pandemic has revealed some sobering truths by showing the strengths and weaknesses of governments in the way they have responded to the crisis.

The economic shocks triggered by the pandemic, which is afflicting the entire world, has crushed service industries like Jamaica’s tourism and has cast the country into rocky waters. We observe that people are falling back into poverty, and there are high levels of unemployment, growing social tensions and rising crime.

Governments are challenged by deciding between imposing lockdowns, in the face of rising infections and deaths, which is encouraged by the health/scientific community and rapid reopening, which is preferred by the business community. Decisions have to be taken on providing stimulus help for vulnerable groups, as well as about the procurement and distribution of vaccines. In the meantime, crime is still out of control and the dollar is losing ground, fissures in the healthcare system have widened and students and teachers are confused - indeed a confluence of factors that points to a perfect storm.

We have seen examples of epic failures in leadership, even in powerful countries, which allowed the pandemic to destroy lives, tear families apart and bring economies to a standstill. Many people are nervous and worried about the future.

It is against this background that we listened to remarks by Industry Minister Audley Shaw when he addressed the inaugural meeting of the National Policy Council this week.

The minister warned that the country was in serious trouble and suggested that Jamaica has to shift gears and focus on recovery. We are in our second year of the pandemic, so we have had time to decide exactly what gears we need to engage, and all along there was a hope that the Government was focused on recovery.

FOCUS ON RECOVERY

“The economy should have been in a better position at this time,” Shaw was heard lamenting. Disappointingly, we did not hear him share his strategies to fix the situation. What does this even mean in the context of Jamaica’s recovery? If history is any guide, Shaw’s statement is typical of politicians who are extremely good at diagnosing problems but have few, if any, solutions.

In general, governments have a key role to respond to and influence the economic circumstances of the country, by targeting critical sectors and working with them to achieve success. We do need bold transformational responses to the current crisis. When there is hand-wringing by our leaders – what are ordinary citizens to do?

Indeed, countries with transformational leadership have found creative ways of capitalising on the opportunities that the pandemic has provided. For example, countries with imagination have decided to exploit remote work by inviting persons to visit and stay in their countries while working at their jobs. They have found the formula to build consensus, coordinate and collaborate.

Critics of the Holness administration charge that, to the detriment of everything else, the Government continues to prioritise its political agenda and its massive ego.

In a Cabinet reshuffle last year, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “New brains and new hearts are needed.”

This is a moment when Mr Shaw and his Cabinet colleagues need to demonstrate that they indeed have the brains to match the challenge of the times.