A referendum on the JLP administration
by Byron Buckley
ELECTIONS, the saying goes, are lost, not won. If this is true, the outcome of yesterday's parliamentary election appears to have been a referendum on the four-year administration of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
The election results indicate that voters in a majority of the country's 63 constituencies were not fooled by the three-card trick attempted by the JLP in changing its leader - replacing the politically damaged Bruce Golding with the youthful Andrew Holness who called the election one year earlier than constitutionally due.
One has to admire the pragmatism of the electorate: if the old hand, Bruce Golding, couldn't handle the job, why choose an untested Holness for the big job of prime minister? He held his own as education minister, but was never really a senior Cabinet minister. Golding never asked him to act as prime minister. Therefore, the JLP was placing its electoral hopes on a wish and a prayer.
This is not to deny that segments of the electorate were not warming to Mr Holness. Indeed, opinion polls in the lead-up to the elections scored him well in terms of leadership and management skills. In this regard, and based on the less-than-impressive showing of JLP leadership hopefuls (Bobby Montague lost, Chris Tufton scraped home), Holness himself is not vanquished. He now has time to build his leadership experience on a national scale. Time, in terms of age, is on his side.
Holness aside, it is the policies and quality of management by the JLP that voters seemed to have rejected.
Allegations and revelations of breaches of contract awards pertaining to the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) at the start of the election campaign cast serious doubt on the probity of the JLP administration: it now appeared, at best, guilty of mismanagement.
Feverish attempts by PM Holness to manage the JDIP fallout seemed to have been futile. The thrashing out of this matter must be at the top of the list for the incoming People's National Party (PNP) administration, especially in light of plans to divert money from the programme to jump-start JEEP, the party's proposed emergency employment programme.
This leads to the job-creation record of the JLP, which came into office promising jobs, jobs. This never materialised because of the impact of the global recession, but more so, according to critics, the Golding administration's slow response to the gathering economic storm at the time. Whatever the reason proferred, the JLP's job-creation performance was unimpressive.
This was aggravated by the administration's poor handling of wage negotiations with public-sector groups - which is a matter that the new administration must handle with deftness as well as alacrity. The size and morale of public-sector employees are critical to national economic performance.
Poor job creation aside, the JLP administration must be credited with engineering low interest rates and a stable macroeconomic regime. The party lost some credit on this front because of the collapsed International Monetary Fund agreement. The PNP has already indicated that it would renegotiate an agreement with the Fund.
While the JLP has been credited for the significant decline in murders, this has been overshadowed by the administration's poor handling of Christopher Coke's extradition to the United States. The substantive issue for civil society was the nexus between gangsterism and politics. The new PNP administration is expected to complete the decapitation of this monster. The PNP garrisons, as well as the system of dons of all political shades, need to be extinguished.
Welcome back, Mrs Simpson Miller and your team, there is much work to be done.