Portia says yes to civil society
People's National Party (PNP) President Portia Simpson Miller said that the call for continuity in certain areas of governance, made by major national stakeholders last week, was an endorsement of the Government she leads.
"I consider the request to be a vote of confidence in the policies of our Government. This is because it is our Government that has put these policies in place," Simpson Miller said while addressing a PNP mass meeting in Morant Bay, East St Thomas, on Sunday night.
William Mahfood, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, one of the signatories to a letter sent by civil society seeking the commitment, said there was no denying that under the current administration, there has been "improvements in terms of governance and some fiscal policies".
"However, some of those were borne out of a need for major reforms, and while some of them were imposed upon us, what we would like to see going forward is reforms and changes which are going to be out of good governing rather then being imposed by external forces," Mahfood said.
The stakeholders, including business groups and academia, wrote to the leaders of both major political parties seeking a commitment that, irrespective of the outcome of the next general election, the next administration would be committed to five key pillars.
The five items for which commitments are being sought are: fiscal responsibility; price stability; social safety net; public-private-sector partnerships, and the ease of doing business.
"I say to them, the response from me, the PNP and the Government is a resounding yes," Simpson Miller said.
She said the enhanced fiscal rules framework would not only lead to fiscal discipline but would lay the foundation for economic growth and development.
"We have brought about price stability by reducing inflation to the lowest levels in 40 years. It is said that inflation is the greatest tax on poor people. Well, this Government has removed that tax from off the backs of the people of Jamaica," she said.
In August, the central bank said the rate of inflation declined to 3.8 per cent over the 12-month period ending July 31 - the lowest rate in more than 43 years.
Committed to poor
In relation to the call for social protection, Simpson Miller said the PNP has always been committed to assisting the poor. She pointed to the creation of the Programme for Advancement Through Health & Education (PATH) and said that the Government last week inked an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank to pump an additional $6 billion to provide more cash grants for persons on PATH.
"It is the People's National Party that has created the largest social safety-net programme in the history of Jamaica to protect the poor and the vulnerable among us," she added.
Some $5.5 billion has been approved in the Budget this year for social spending out of the labour and social security ministry.
Meanwhile, the PNP president, on Sunday, pointed to significant advancement in doing business.
The civil society leaders, in their letter to Simpson Miller and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, said it was important that the gains made under the four-year economic reform programme with the IMF not be reversed after the election.