Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Peter Phillips - A tried and proven achiever

Published:Wednesday | January 13, 2016 | 1:58 AM
Phillips ushered the Jamaica Urban Transit Company into a new era.
Peter Phillips has been the member of parliament for East Central St Andrew for the past 21 years.
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Peter David Phillips was never numbered among 'Apostles' – past or present - and there is no evidence of him making claim to being a fisherman.

But there is no denying it - numerous followers have long pronounced him 'solid as a rock'.

This has been cemented by the foundation that they declared that he has laid in rebuilding what many have described as a crumbling economy.

Phillips’ resolute approach to assignments, over the years, appears to have solidified triumphs in many of his endeavours in public life, even in the midst of disappointments.

Those who know him readily attest to the gritty nature of the multi-faceted public servant. His dogged approach to life has seen to it.

Donovan Nelson has worked with Phillips in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, and before that, National Security.

Nelson has known the veteran academic-turned-politician "forever".

“That man is driven by the desire to create a society that provides equal opportunity for everyone,” he declared.

Former Parliamentarian, Heather Robinson has known Phillips even longer than Nelson has. Asked what drives the veteran politician, Robinson laughed. “He has a very thick skin.”

More soberly, Robinson commented: “He does what he has to do and does it well.”

It is this tenacity that has once again catapulted Phillips to the best that he can be. Phillips has for 2015, been nominated for the prestigious Gleaner Honour Award for Public Service.   

This is hardly surprising as he has proven over many years that he may be more of an effective public servant than a politician.

Born December 28, 1949, Phillips has been the Member of Parliament for East Central Andrew for the past 21 years.

He was ushered into representational politics via a by-election that coerced a curious graduation from the Upper to Lower House in the legislative chamber in 1994.
Before entering Gordon House as a senator in 1989, Phillips worked as a lecturer in the Department of Government, and the Consortium Graduate School, at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
The earlier transfer of Phillips from the halls of academia to the senate, simply served to showcase his determination in anything he sets his mind to.

Phillip’s continued successes as a legislator may very well be attributable to his gritty penchant as a public servant.

Take, for example, his steering of the transport minister portfolio when minibuses and 'robot' taxis followed the example, if not the route of the Middle Passage.

Phillips applied the brakes to the archaic transportation system in Jamaica when he ushered the Jamaica Urban Transit Company into a new era.  

It was as a solid achiever that Phillips was dispatched by then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson to rescue Jamaicans from the rickety excuse of a public transportation system.

From 1998 to 2001, he succeeded in not only reorganising the transport system in the Corporate Area but in the rehabilitation and improvement of the road network across the island as well.

As crime levels increased, Phillips was summoned by Patterson to take the fight to marauding hoodlums.

During his tenure as national security minister, Phillips enjoyed some successes in reducing the flows of illegal narcotics through Jamaica and led a reform effort for Jamaica’s security forces.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller appointed the by then name-brand politician to take over the mantle of the challenging finance ministry – no easy task by all reckoning.

Phillip’s predecessors as well as financial watchers and economists will bear testimony that meeting the targets for the passing of 10 International Monetary Fund (IMF) tests is no small feat.

World Bank Country Manager Galina, Sotirova told The Gleaner in 2015 that three years ago when the IMF programme was put in place with the collaboration of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), few believed that Jamaica would have reached this stage.

Not only was the track record of agreement with the IMF poor, but economic management, development, and growth figures were dismal as well.

"When you look where Jamaica was three years ago and how far it has moved, it really shows a strong commitment and determination to a path of reform that was needed for years in Jamaica," asserted Sotirova.

That Phillips has refused to yield to temptation in the execution of his tasks, has soldified the confidence of people like Sotirova.      
Apart from being minister of finance and planning, the man who has led a career in government, politics and academia, not only served as minister of health between 1995 and 1997, he was also minister of special projects in the Office of the Prime Minister from 1991 to 1994, and minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister between 1989 and 1991.
A graduate of Jamaica College, Phillips earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics, and a Master of Science in Government from the University of the West Indies.
He completed doctoral studies in International Political Economy at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he is a Ford Foundation Fellow. He is also a Fulbright Scholar and has done scholarly work at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

In the political arena, Phillips was vice president of the People’s National Party from September 1999 to September 20, 2008 and general secretary between 1991 and 1994.