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Stabroek News

Madam PM firmly in charge
published: Sunday | September 3, 2006


Dawn Ritch, Contributor

At the risk of being deeply unfashionable among my colleagues, I have no second thoughts whatsoever about the leadership of Madam Prime Minister.

The only reservation I've ever had in nearly 20 years, was that she is a member of the People's National Party (PNP). And I dispensed with that ages ago. She has chosen the PNP, and now the PNP has chosen her.

There's no point crying over spilt milk, regretting that she's not a Labourite. But unfortunately, every administration run by the comrades has trashed and beggared the island. Nevertheless, the people keep voting them in for longer periods of government than the Jamaica Labour Party, and the PNP makes a greater mess of Jamaica every time they're elected to office. All this while promising to govern in our names, and in our interest.

Loss of hope

In sad, philosophical tones, many Jamaicans are now asking each other if it can get any worse, and whether or not there's hope for the country in our lifetime. This is indicative of a loss of hope. Jamaicans have become so cynical that they're afraid to look, much less believe what they see.

It is noteworthy that the JLP under the leadership of 'Flip-Flop' Bruce Golding has failed to make a connection with the Jamaican people, even in the depths of this despair.

That party had a well-funded islandwide tour promising to roll back the road toll, pay the teachers, nurses and policemen more. This was the result no doubt of professional public relations advice from abroad to find resonance with the Jamaican people.

Not a soul took any notice. The JLP is way back in the opinion polls. The PNP is ahead of them, despite being the cause of our economic and social decline.

Madame Prime Minister's personal poll numbers are way ahead of 'Flip-Flop's', and everything else - everything else, except the business class, the media, the commentators and the so-called intelligentsia. The élite of the country has recoiled in horror, and now trembles fearfully for the status quo.

Portia defied the status quo of her own party, by becoming its president. Traditionally the island's élite has only accepted working-class leadership when it is provided by the JLP. Had Portia come up through the ranks of the JLP, no one would dare be so casually rude to her today, much less question her capacity for leadership.

Nobody would be trying to tell her what to do, except in the most respectful tones. And the media would be fawning all over her.

Had Mrs. Simpson Miller been leader of the JLP in 1992, Patterson would have been flung out to pasture. The JLP would have been in power since then, the country could have been saved its distress, and Babsy Grange would be Minister of Foreign Affairs, charming the country's way to the best international deals and helping Portia create prosperity.

Let the record show, as it must, that murder is down by 25 per cent and the country's GDP grew 2.8 per cent from April to June in 2006.

Madam Prime Minister was firmly in the saddle by then, having won the presidency of the PNP on February 25.

This growth is despite a downturn in construction of 3.5 per cent over the same period because of the cement crisis.

Performance in office

This means that there is a tremendous amount of growth nascent in Jamaica that will continue to exhale under her leadership and guidance. Despite being a PNP, therefore, she has been the catalyst for a surge of economic activity not seen in Jamaica in 40 years. Nor is it one fueled by construction as was the earlier period. This growth is essentially broad-based.

Outside of the Government's wage bill, construction is the next biggest and the most important sector. It keeps every person, every hardware store, every grocery shop prosperous and busy. To have managed growth without construction is a death-defying act, and must be credited to the new administration. The previous one never provided such a spectacle in all their years of office. The recent moderation in the surge in oil prices also augers well for the future.

Madame Prime Minister's borrowings so far have been country to country, at concessionary interest rates, rather than on the expensive international capital market.

At the risk of being deeply unfashionable among the PNP, therefore, I must point out that her performance thus far in office has been that of a Labourite, and not a comrade.

All knowledgeable Labourites knew she would perform all along. This is why they never tired of trying to get her to cross the floor to the JLP, with the promise of its leadership.

But she put up with all the indignities heaped on her by the hierarchy of her own party, in order to one day become its president. Even greater indignities are now being heaped privately and publicly upon her, although she is prime minister.

A regal prime minister thrown up by the working classes of the JLP would have been familiar to the élite and therefore both believable and acceptable.

Somebody like that in the PNP it is thought, must be a D.K. Duncan in sheep's clothing, red in both tooth and claw. Had Portia been leader of the JLP, no one could harbour any such suspicions about her.

For 20 years, the élite and the intelligentsia paid not the slightest attention to Portia, except to dismiss her derisively. Instead of feeling a little embarrassed about that and somewhat humbled by the experience, they now demand that she dance attendance upon them.

Were she to jump every time they called, she'd have no time left to govern. This approach may offend them, but it has already produced national economic growth. Most of these members of the élite and the intelligentsia were in constant and daily dialogue with the previous administration. They never managed to produce an iota of growth.

Madame Prime Minister has said she would prefer to work, rather than talk. Obviously she prefers to do the right thing, rather than watch opinion polls. Remain calm, rather than fly off the handle. Make her own judgments, instead of doing as she is told by her supporters. The country has not seen such representation as this since the days of Alexander Bustamante. Long may she continue!

I have no hesitation supporting someone who performs as she does at home, and who gets the standing ovations that she does when she speaks before her peers abroad.

Now if Mrs. Simpson Miller can lower the gas bill and the light bill at home, keep us all busy with gainful work, and continue assiduously to lower the crime rate, Jamaica would be restored to its former glory overnight.

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