Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Gordon Robinson: Shaw produced plenty political posturing but little substance

Published:Wednesday | March 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Gordon Robinson


The obsolete, irrelevant, ineffective circus known as 'Budget Debate' continued with Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley 'Are You' Shaw's contribution.

True to form, continuing the traditional game of political one-upmanship disguised as debate, he produced plenty political posturing but little substance. Shaw spent over 50 per cent of his time boasting about Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) achievements before as opposed to People's National Party (PNP) disasters since 2011. This is grist for political rallies, but Jamaicans wishing an issues-oriented discussion are fed up with it.

Shaw, in a throwback to decades-old JLP propaganda, was careful to repeatedly raise the Socialist Bogeyman spectre, yet, when in full cry, hastened to call commercial banks "rapacious" and demanded government intervention in their businesses. Who's the socialist?

In his superficial analysis of government's failure to meet IMF wage/GDP ratios, he blithely anticipated legislative amendments to the Fiscal Responsibility rules without considering the fundamental flaw in Westminster exposed by his blissful expectation. Why should it be standard for a minister to first announce a radical alteration to entrenched fiscal strategy and then adjust the law accordingly without requiring any legislative oversight? Is it that the JLP is as comfortable with Westminster as is the PNP only awaiting its turn to benefit?

Shaw did make some good points. He:

n Exposed the flaw in the alleged gas tax "hedge fund" - no detail appears in the budget. This apparent sham seems a cover for the tax to be swallowed up in the Consolidated Fund for recurrent expenditure.

n Called out Government on its electoral promise breach regarding GCT on electricity.

n Tried to expose the debt/GDP reduction trick but was so confused and garbled that few could follow his analysis.

n Exposed fiscal chaos at the NWC, JUTC, and NHT but neglected to propose any solutions.

n Exposed the Government's plan to prioritise election propaganda over national concerns like justice.

Eventually, he perpetrated the same obfuscatory debating tactic for which he criticised Government by proposing 20 paths to growth without a single detail regarding how. For example, he correctly called for education transformation without mentioning that this is already government policy. How would Audley improve implementation?

In Westminster, all opposition spokesmen sound knowledgeable and forthright when speechifying at the annual circus. Shaw didn't disappoint; much sound and fury signifying zip. But we who lived through his years as finance minister know illusion when we see it.

Peace and love.