Fri | Sep 30, 2016

Dealing with credibility

Published:Thursday | January 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM



Devon Dick

All Jamaicans should wish the latest Government of Jamaica (GOJ) reissued bonds all the best.Notwithstanding, the question needs to be asked: is this a credible programme? If it is voluntary, why were there veiled threats? Is it a default or is it an exchange?

In 2000, the Industrial Commercial Developments (ICD) group, headed by Joseph Matalon, now president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, had a successful tender offer in which creditors, local and overseas, voluntarily accepted 55 per cent of their investment.Now ICD is a strong group.I am not sure why this template was not used.This reissuing of GOJ bonds should have been completely voluntary.The prime minister (PM) should have trusted Jamaicans to rally behind a purely voluntary effort based on ability.

Remember how Jamaicans supported the Butch Stewart/Leachim Semaj Initiative in 1992? However, forcing everyone to volunteer is a bad idea.Additionally, a 'one-size-fits-all' approach ignores special needs.The way the PM has handled this issue creates a credibility problem because it has mixed volunteerism with threat.

The PM is developing a credibility problem. He announced at the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) conference that an IMF agreement would be in place by Christmas after other missed deadlines.It creates a climate that other financial targets can be missed as if 'ah nuh nutten'. There were analysts who said it could not happen by December, so why did the PM make such a claim?

Again, the prime minister in his 2010 New Year's Message said, "The number of murders committed last year, while still less than the level of 2005, is way beyond what any stable society can tolerate."

The official figures said that 2009 had more murders than 2005. Why did the PM make such a statement? In that same message, the PM said we can expect modest economic growth, but is that projection credible when the murder statistics were incorrect?

Credibility is crucial

Credibility is important in governance. It builds confidence between the ruled and the rulers. It inspires confidence. Citizens would then feel that statements by politicians are believable. In this 'age of spin', there ought to be authorities who will try to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There will always be difference of opinion and interpretation of facts, but leadership should provide accurate data. Once credibility goes, we are in trouble.

The PM needs to return to his National Democratic Movement (NDM) posture when he admitted errors in his political life and associations. He needs to do what Christians call confession. He needs to admit that his administration has made specific blunders without reference to errors of others in the same breath.He needs to wipe the slate clean for this administration and start all over.

For this new programme to be credible, it needs to be undergirded by a new philosophy of volunteerism and public service. Therefore, senators and councillors would have to revert to voluntary service. Commissions of inquiry and government boards would be seen as opportunities for undertaking public service just as serving on school boards. The Constituency Development Fund would have to go.Executive perks would be slashed.State funding of political parties must be a non-starter, etc. In other words, leaders would have to live within our means.

In 1992, when there was the Stewart/Semaj Initiative to save the Jamaican dollar, the exchange rate was J$25 to US$1 and 18 years later it is J$89 to US$1.The Trinidadian and the Barbadian exchange rates did not have similar slippage because their fundamentals were different.Learn from history: this initiative will fail like the Stewart/Semaj effort, unless there is a change in philosophy in governance and in the fundamentals of the economy.

There needs to be credibility and a credible programme. We should not wheel and deal with credibility because dealing with credibility is vital.

Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church and author of 'Rebellion to Riot: the Church in Nation Building'. Feedback may be sent to columns@gleanerjm.com.