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PM's mantra not moving Jamaicans, says analyst

Published:Wednesday | October 14, 2015 | 10:00 AM

Political analyst Helene Davis-Whyte has signalled that Portia Simpson Miller's key mantra of "balancing the books while balancing people's lives" appears not to be resonating with the Jamaican people.

In a Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, which sought the views of the electorate on whether things in Jamaica are going in the right or wrong direction these days, 68 per cent of those surveyed said the country was moving in the wrong direction.

"Almost anybody that you speak with out there will tell you that life and times are getting harder - not easier. It is a reality for the vast majority, and as a result, they will feel that the country is not going in the right direction," Davis-Whyte said in a Gleaner interview.

"The prime minister herself said it when she was campaigning that she wanted to not only balance the books, but also balance people's lives, and the reality is that they are not feeling that balancing of their lives at this point in time," she reasoned.

About two weeks ago, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips tabled in Parliament the Fiscal Policy Paper interim report for 2015-2016, which indicated that the Government had made significant progress in the first two and a half years of the economic programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He told his parliamentary colleagues that the economic-reform programme "remains on track with the successful passage of all nine IMF extended fund facility reviews".

However, Davis-Whyte, who is also a member of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), which monitors the IMF programme, said in most economies, including Jamaica, there is a lag time in terms of policy implementation and its impact on the population.

 

NUMBERS LOOK GOOD, BUT ...

 

"The numbers look very good, but the people are just not feeling it," said Davis-Whyte, who insisted that members of the public would not necessarily react to "numbers on a paper", but would be concerned primarily with bread-and-butter issues.

"From my vantage point as a member of EPOC, it is something that is troubling for us," she said, adding that EPOC was not only concerned with monitoring achievements of the fiscal targets, but also targets in relation to economic growth.

The political commentator indicated that the Government has failed to effectively communicate with the Jamaican people.

"The kind of communication that one expects should be taking place with the country in times like these is not happening to the degree that it should, and I think that Mrs Simpson Miller has really wasted her social capital because she is a good communicator. ... [She should] talk to people and tell them what is the endgame, and what is the vision.I don't think enough of that is being done, so you will have discontent."

Commenting on the results of the Bill Johnson poll on Monday, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica President William Mahfood said the average Jamaican was facing hardships based on the cost of living.

He said under the current IMF agreement, significant cuts have been made in Government spending, and the private sector has only just started to see some of the effects of the macroeconomic programmes.

edmond.campbell