Sun | Dec 4, 2016

It was hard to stay riveted to the screen ... but there were interesting moments in the presentation

Published:Friday | March 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Nadeen Spence

Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness, had his turn at the National Budget Debate presentation Thursday. I sat and listened to most of the presentation, but I must confess, it was hard to stay riveted to the screen although there were interesting moments in the presentation. Mr Holness was rather thorough in his thesis and presented numerous arguments to support his claim that Jamaica has not fulfilled the potential it demonstrated at independence.

He did present a rather detailed analysis of the education sector, though I wondered if he recognised that after listing his own achievements as minister of education, his arguments became problematic when he began to describe systematic inefficiencies in the education sector.

The highlight of his entire presentation was his point that 'the education system reinforces inequality and inequity." Those of us who have had to navigate education outside of the concept of traditional colonial schools know that our success is achieved not because of our education, but in spite of it. And so this particular piece of truth resonated with me in a most profound way, and to further solidify this most important point was the statement about the "psychological impact of placing students in failing schools".

I also appreciated his assessment of the challenges facing the tertiary education sector and the problem of financing tertiary education, because the issue of the viability of tertiary-level institutions (TLI) is one that our country must now seriously grapple with, both from the perspective of students' ability to fund their education and, therefore, proceed to graduation and the ability of the institutions to stay viable in these difficult financial times. His call for the Government to increase the budgetary allocation to TLIs is an important one.

Holness' presentation touched on some critical issues, the recent murders of two pregnant teen girls, which, once again, highlight issues of cultural acceptance of carnal abuse, the Riverton City fire and Jamaica's less-than-adequate response to concerns about the Riverton City dump. Truth be told, his suggestions seemed quite practical. But given our current financial situation, I wonder what his presentation would have sounded like if he were prime minister.

I paid attention to his assertion that 'under a People's National Party (PNP) government the crime rate spirals out of control. I wonder how the PNP will respond because that is a serious assertion. Overall, the presentation was an Andrew Holness special half thesis, part history lesson with some statistics thrown in for good measure. The basket of goods demonstration was apparently high drama based on the animated responses on the Parliament floor, as they learnt what is in the basket and how its contents had dwindled over time ... . It certainly seemed to have impacted the jacket-suited, Prado-driving occupants of the seats of Gordon House.

- Nadeen Spence is a social commentator and a member of the 51% Coalition.