Sun | May 26, 2019

Holness admin makes the grade three years in, says Henry

Published:Tuesday | February 26, 2019 | 12:14 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer

While the Andrew Holness administration has performed moderately well since taking the reins of Government in 2016, producing economic stability and nominal growth, it is still dogged by the stereotype of scandal, political commentator Martin Henry has said.

Yesterday marked three years since the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) prevailed over the People’s National Party (PNP) by a razor-thin 32-31 margin in the 2016 general election. With the South East St Mary by-election more than a year ago, the JLP increased the margin to 33-30.

Henry, in exploring the critical factors by which governments are generally assessed during their tenure, argued that on the economic front, the Holness administration has held its own and improved conditions in measurable terms, even if the five-in-four growth target turned out to be a “point of humour”.

“A significant economic out-turn has been the decline of the unemployment rate into single digits for the first time in living memory almost,” Henry told The Gleaner yesterday.

“This has to be a plus for any government, to have pushed down unemployment to that kind of level, bearing in mind that the administration set out to do job creation and economic growth as [two] of its major objectives,” he added.

Henry also gave the Government, a tick for the trending down of the inflation rate, the stabilisation of the dollar, and small-yet-significant levels of growth compared to former years.

On crime, Henry reasoned that the introduction of the zones of special operations would have been a plus for the Government. However, the weakness of implementation and the controversies that emerged over their extension, as well as the states of emergency, would have been matters of concern. He further argued that even though murders fell by 22 per cent nationally in 2018, there were no indications that a dramatic drop in homicides would be sustainable, much to the disappointment of murder-weary Jamaicans.

Superministries

A particular sticking point for Henry, a long-time Gleaner columnist, is the creation of two superministries in the shape of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.

“I am yet to be convinced that merging those portfolios under one minister would have yielded any better results than keeping them in their traditional structural arrangements,” he contended.

Henry indicated that a number of scandals have dogged the Government, but the Petrojam nepotism saga – which has triggered a wave of resignations amid damning findings in an auditor general’s report and a pending forensic investigation into the state-owned oil refinery – has been a major source of distraction and embarrassment for the administration.

“It provides an opportunity for Government to overhaul how the public service operates, but it has been a significant jolt to the administration, among the other issues which arose on the negative side,” he explained.

However, the university administrator believes that on balance, the Holness Government has delivered more positives than negatives.

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com