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Andrew's fears - Opposition leader feels Jamaica's democracy at risk, while crime soars

Published:Friday | January 22, 2016 | 1:00 AMGary Spaulding
Andrew Holness (right), leader of the opposition; Professor Densil Williams (centre), executive director of the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM); and Dr Horace Chang, opposition spokesman on water and housing, during the MSBM/Gleaner Leadership Forum at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday.

LEADER OF the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness is harbouring deep fears for Jamaica that he feels are not being adequately addressed by the current People's National Party (PNP) Government.

Numbered among Holness' fears are what he characterised as the real and existing risk to the country's democracy as well as entrenched poverty, economic stagnation, high crime levels, and soaring unemployment.

"My number-one fear for Jamaica is that our democracy is at risk," asserted Holness, as he addressed a recent Gleaner-Mona School of Business and Management Leadership Roundtable.

Holness opined that as a result, many are opting out of the country's democratic system. "They don't want to participate because they feel that politics is firstly, ineffectual," he suggested.

He said, too, that many are of the view that apart from not being able to engender necessary changes, politics is corrupt in how it allocates benefits, opportunities, income, wealth among others things.

"They feel that the political class has too much control over allocations and when that happens, it is inevitably, inherently, a corrupt process," argued Holness.

Another reason, Holness suggested, that contributes to the lack of participation in the democratic process is the hangover experiences of previous decades.

"People still feel that politics is violent and aggressive," he said.

"The process of change goes through democracy. But if the institution of change doesn't account for 47 per cent of the electorate, is that institution really working?" he asked.

Holness also lamented that poverty is becoming an entrenched reality in Jamaica. "In the last data that was released in 2012, it (poverty levels) was 19 per cent of the population," he noted.

"It could be more and this category of persons is what is considered to be absolutely poor," asserted Holness. "All the other reports are pointing to an increase in poverty."

He bemoaned that the strategies of governments in the past have been too centred on poverty alleviation. "There has been no consistency or the setting of an agenda to rid the country of abject poverty," he lamented.

"In my own constituency (of West Central St Andrew), and when I tour the country, I see this, but it is not a main agenda item anymore," he said.

Holness said this should not be viewed as a Utopian dream, because ending poverty is also a stated objective of the United Nation.

He also expressed fears that Jamaica will not grow in the second decade of the 21st century that will render it difficult to rid the land of poverty.

"We may not have significant growth in this decade and if we don't have growth in this decade, then absolute poverty will increase and become more entrenched.

Holness suggested that it is possible that Jamaica could engage in four years of austerity imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and not achieve growth at the end. "I fear that we would have to engage in another set of IMF programmes," he said.

The opposition leader said he is also quite worried that the Government will not be able to make a significant impact on crime during the current decade. "Murders in particular, continue to be a challenge, with no cohesive strategy in place (to counteract the scourge). We will not be able to create the job necessary to bring our society close to, if not, full employment within the current decade," he said.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com