Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Letter of the Day | Government needs to think a more equitable economic strategy

Published:Thursday | January 4, 2018 | 12:30 AM


The present impasse between the Government and public sector workers is stark reminder that there is variance in style and class in how a People’s National Party (PNP) Government approaches workers in comparison to a Jamaica Labour Party-led (JLP) Government. Sadly, this difference is merely one of form and not substance; the PNP would take a different course and ends up quicker at the same place the JLP is labouring to reach.

The reality is that both are now wedded to the austerity of the IMF Agreement of 2012 which is inimical to the welfare of public sector employees and the public in general.

Five (5) years plus into this strategy has seen a decline in living wages, living standards and a weakening of the Jamaican state. 

Conversely, a small minority, living and corporate (local and foreign) are creaming off the wealth made here, most of which is repatriated overseas. There is little reinvestment and the jobs created are mostly low paying. The vast majority of these jobs are in tourism and the BPO sector where workers have little or no tenure or union protection.

There are no hallowed grounds save those carved out for our lenders and creditors. Indeed with the high-jacking of National Housing Trust funds to pay debt the system is hurrying to complete the transfer of the wealth of the country to a few. Both parties are conjoined on this issue, and they merely seek divine expedition of the promised overflows from the tables of the rich to the grasping hands of the working classes. In short, things will only get better for workers when the rich are satiated.

The fact that we owe more money today than we did in 2012, despite the bitter and painful sacrifices since, especially by the majority poor, is signal to the public sector unions that austerity for workers has no plausible endgame. Their agitation for a more realistic offer from Government needs to force Government’s rethinking to a more equitable economic strategy. The staggering profits being made by banks, tourism and other sectors is evidence that the issue is not so much affordability as it is greed and inequality.

April 2018 will mark 80 years since the 1938 workers uprising that forced meaningful changes to the Jamaican political and economic landscape. The capital/business classes have regrouped, and are being aided once again by the political class of the day. I urge the public sector workers to join forces and forge a new dialogue to address the country’s growing inequality and worsening public sector working conditions.