Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Wesley Morris | Omar Davies' lousy legacy

Published:Sunday | June 11, 2017 | 6:00 AM
Wesley Morris
Omar Davies, former minister of finance.
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As Dr Omar Davies, member of parliament for South St Andrew, is about to announce his resignation, it is fitting to look at the man who has had such a long and successful career in politics. What Dr Omar Davies learned from his hard-working mother, who was crucial to the success and prominence of him and his brothers, was ambition, determination, and not caring about anyone else. These traits have led to him becoming extremely successful over a 24-year period as an MP, serving as minister of finance and planning, and minister of transport and works.

Dr Davies' insistence that he did the right thing in correctly analysing the issues surrounding the breakdown in the Jamaican economy in the 1990s, despite the damage it has had on the lives of many Jamaicans, illustrates the fact that he is ambitious, determined, and was inconsiderate towards those whose businesses were destroyed. Instead of doing what was needed to solve the problems of the Jamaican economy, he simply blamed others.

In an article titled 'Davies dug the graveyard of entrepreneurship; FINSAC failed', Dr Paul Chen Young, former executive chairman of Eagle Merchant Bank, characterised Dr Davies as "architect of the failed financial and economic policies during the period that led to the collapse of the domestic financial sector, closures of numerous businesses, massive layoffs - 90,000 in agriculture and manufacturing - high inflation averaging 34 per cent from 1991 to 1997, high lending rates averaging 40 per cent over the same period, devaluation of 64 per cent over the six-year period, massive trade deficits, destruction of entrepreneurship, and a fiscal deficit of eight per cent of gross domestic product in 1997 BEFORE the financial crisis after erasing a surplus in the early 1990s ... ." (Sunday Gleaner, May 22, 2011)

It is important to note that high inflation of 34 per cent means that the majority of the population suffers and poor parents in Dr Davies' constituency of South St Andrew were unable to feed their children or buy them medicine. For Dr Davies to use this instrument of high interest rate in his attempt to solve the country's financial ills shows quite clearly that he had no consideration for the majority of the people of Jamaica.

Whatever Dr Davies had on his mind, it had nothing to do with the wholesale health of the Jamaican economy or the welfare of the people whose lives his policies had damaged or destroyed.

 

GUILTY OF CHARGE

 

Claude Clarke, businessman and former minister of trade, suggested that "the PNP plead guilty for the damage inflicted on the economy in the 1990s; and reintroduce itself to the country with a new message under its new leader", and in 2011 wrote an article with the title, 'The tragic folly of FINSAC', which began as follows:

"The name FINSAC (Financial Sector Adjustment Company) has evolved into a uniquely ubiquitous metaphor for the economic malady that crippled the Jamaican economy through the 1990s and continues to this day to scar the economic lives of many in our society. This two-decade-long economic nightmare blighted the economy and plunged the country into a vortex of economic decline with thousands of businesses closing their doors. It locked Jamaica out of the great global economic surge that took place during the 1990s and 2000s ... ." (Sunday Gleaner, May 22, 2011).

These arguments will be lost on Dr Davies.

Omar Davies is adamant that poor management within Jamaican financial institutions caused the crisis. This is in direct opposition to the serious and scholarly views expressed by the business people who bore the brunt of the crisis and had good reasons to deal with objective reality. What is missing from these analyses, however, is a look at Dr Davies' lack of compassion.

Several people cited Dr Davies as arrogant. This may actually have helped the PNP lose the general election in 2007. WikiLeaks-intercepted United States diplomatic cables (The Sunday Gleaner, May 29, 2011) revealed that a certain minister threatened to resign if Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller used the National Insurance Fund for job creation, which was likely to have eased the economic burden on poor people and encouraged them to vote for the PNP in the general election.

That minister, it seems, was concerned that his excellent record in the eyes of IMF and international institutions would be blemished. Portia Simpson Miller backed down because she was concerned about the division the resignation would cause.

 

LACK OF CRITICAL THINKING

 

At a thanksgiving service for his mother (the general), who died at the age of 95, Omar Davies tells us that through her focus on education, she assisted him and his brothers to achieve excellence in education and prominence in public life. Totally missing from this story was how she earned her "limited income" and helped her children excel.

Perhaps because of this powerful example of his mother and his lack of critical thinking about it, Dr Davies expects poor people within his inner-city community to perform similar feats, even though they have negligible sources of income and find it difficult to meet even their basic human needs, such as feeding their families.

As MP for South St Andrew, Dr Omar Davies' major (probably sole) initiative for the constituency has been in education. He is very proud of this. He claims that education is the only thing that will draw people out of poverty, although the Jamaican education system benefits a small minority and does not cater for the general population.

The dynamic economies of today (for example, South East Asia) focus on mightily raising the standard of the average and not just the top percentage, in that way helping the people as a whole. Here, again, he is particularly fond of blaming the victims of government policy for their suffering. You, residents of South St Andrew (and other inner-city communities), Dr Omar Davies is suggesting that your poverty has nothing to do with government policy. He apparently doesn't care about all those people struggling to make a living or finding a means to survive. Those who see Dr Omar Davies for the person he really is will respond to his departure by saying farewell and good riddance!

- Dr Wesley Morris is a former aspirant for the chairmanship of the St Andrew South constituency. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and sinderesis@cwjamaica.com.