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Change course, Portia - Majority of Jamaicans say PNP Government steering country in wrong direction

Published:Sunday | October 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (right) and members of the Cabinet, including the late Roger Clarke (centre), prior to the start of a two-day special Cabinet meeting late last year. - File

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

A LITTLE more than seven in every 10 Jamaicans believe that the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration is steering the country in the wrong direction.

In a September 2014 Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, 73 per cent of respondents said the country is heading in the wrong direction.

This was statistically the same as in December 2013 when 74 per cent of the respondents expressed a similar view.

Claims by Simpson Miller at the annual conference of the People's National Party in September that the country is better off now than when her administration took the reins of power two years and 10 months ago have apparently failed to resonate with the majority of Jamaicans.

The Government has, to date, passed five quarterly tests under the four-year Extended Fund Facility with the International Monetary Fund and has received the endorsement of the head of that body, Christine Lagarde, who used a visit to the island in June to praise the administration for its work.

But that has not been enough to impress the majority of Jamaicans who listed a litany of woes to substantiate their claims that the administration needs to change course.

Going the wrong way

Only nine per cent of Jamaicans believe that the country is going in the right direction, while 18 per cent say they are not sure if the course being charted by the Government is right or wrong.

Particularly painful for the Simpson Miller administration is that the number of persons who believe the country is headed in the right direction has declined by 18 percentage points since it took office.

In the run-up to the 2011 general election, Johnson tested the pulse of country and found that 54 per cent felt Jamaican was heading in the wrong direction, 27 per cent believed it was moving in the right direction while 19 per cent said they did not know.

Opinion has also shifted on the question of what is the most pressing problem facing the country at this time. The issues of the slow pace of job creation and unemployment have surged past crime as the number one problem in Jamaica.

Forty-seven per cent of the country cited unemployment as the number one problem facing Jamaica at this time, with 34 per cent of respondents highlighting crime as the problem of greatest concern.

Other concerns for Jamaicans included the cash crunch, with 11 per cent of Jamaicans saying the lack of money was their foremost problem, while eight per cent highlighted high cost of living, as well as poverty and suffering, as the most pressing problems facing them.

In the meantime, six per cent of Jamaicans are of the opinion that the economy and economic crisis are the most pressing problems, while five per cent pointed to poor governance.

Unemployment problem

When Johnson drilled down to find out what bothers or concerns Jamaicans in a personal way the most, 45 per cent of the country listed the lack of jobs and unemployment.

Responding to the same question, 21 per cent cited crime, 12 per cent said money and eight per cent mentioned high cost of living.

Nearly three years in the seat of governance, the PNP has also struggled to make an impression on Jamaicans that it is capable of dealing with their problems at the community level.

Johnson sought answers from the respondents about whether they believe things were going in the right or wrong direction these days, in the area in which they live.

Sixty-four per cent of those interviewed said things are going in the wrong direction in the area they live in. This is five percentage points more than the 59 per cent who told Johnson the country was going in the wrong direction under the Jamaica Labour Party Government, just before voters went to the polls in 2011.

However, 24 per cent think things are going in the right direction in their communities, 10 percentage points fewer than those who expressed a similar view when Johnson conducted a poll in December 2011.

The latest Bill Johnson poll had a sample size of 1,208 residents and was conducted on September 6-7 and 13 to 14. It has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.