Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Even as Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips sought to assure Jamaicans that his negotiating team was fine-tuning plans to present to the high-level team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which is due in the island next month, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw is frowning on a reported move by the Government to solicit political favours from the United States (US) government.
Phillips told The Gleaner that he intends to have definitive proposals on public sector transformation, pension reform and the planned rationalisation of tax waivers ready ahead of the September 25 visit by the IMF.
Stressing that the outline of the plans was ready, Phillips told The Gleaner that the Government would be racing the clock as it finalised preparations for the upcoming talks in a bid to hammer out an agreement before the end of the year. "We are actively preparing for the mission to come in September," the finance minister asserted.
"All the preparations and programming work are in full gear and all the elements of the programme are advancing ... we are moving to implement, even before the IMF comes, some or all the elements of a new (tax) waiver policy which includes the rationalisation of the waiver system," Phillips disclosed.
However, Shaw called on Phillips to focus on dealing expeditiously with the outstanding issues delaying a new IMF agreement, instead of asking the US Government for political support in dealing with the IMF.
Shaw noted that Phillips was quoted in a newspaper story saying that, "Jamaica is mainly hoping that political support from the United States will help to encourage the IMF to move swiftly in approving a new programme."
"Instead of graciously accepting the offer of the US Government for technical assistance, we are now faced with the spectre of Jamaica asking the Government of the United States to, in effect, interfere with the decision-making process at the IMF," said Shaw.
"This is unworthy of the minister, who should abandon that strategy and seek instead to fast track the implementation of the critical benchmark requirements that can lead to a credible medium-term programme that is acceptable to the IMF and all other stakeholders including the people of Jamaica."
"There are active discussions taking place with the trade unions in relation to the 2012 period going forward," the finance minister said. "We are also moving to receive and act on a report from the parliamentary committee on pension reforms."
Phillips stressed that, notwithstanding the misgivings and apprehensions, some elements of the Public Sector Pension Reform will be implemented during the course of this current fiscal year.
He said there was a meeting of the sub-committee of Cabinet examining public sector transformation. "It is very much on the table. We had a meeting last week and are currently looking at immediately transforming several agencies into executive agencies," Phillips revealed. "We are looking at which elements are to be included in the reform and in the process, extend the list of executive agencies."
The Gleaner's managing editor, Jenni Campbell (left) presents the Silver Pen Award for the month of May to Brian-Paul Welsh at The Gleaner's North Street, central Kingston offices on Thursday.Gladstone Taylor/Photographer
Obama, gay marriage issues earn writer Silver Pen
The Silver Pen Award for the month of May goes to ... Brian-Paul Welsh!
Twenty-seven-year-old communication specialist and entrepreneur, Brian-Paul Welsh had been writing for years, but was never rewarded for his work.
In early May when President of the United States Barack Obama announced his support for gay marriage Welsh, again, was prompted to put pen to paper.
Obama's pronouncement proved to be a bombshell for many and it was then that Welsh decided he would write a letter to the editor of The Gleaner.
On May 15 Welsh's letter was published as 'Letter of the Day' under the headline, 'Obama on the right side of history'. It would later be selected as letter of the month.
The Gleaner Silver Pen Award was presented to Welsh on Thursday at the newspaper's North Street, central Kingston, offices, where he talked about the motivation behind the letter.
"I have been writing since I was in high school. I was first published when I was 16, writing (under a pseudonym) about education and the education system. As I got older, and I suppose braver, I decided, for certain issues, to use my real name and this was one of them that I felt I wanted to stand behind and stand beside."
Blasted one-time Obama supporters
In the letter, Welsh chastised Obama's one-time supporters who had taken issue with his pronouncement on gay marriage, claiming that they seemed to have been in the dark as it relates to his (Obama's) political views.
"Didn't all those people in Jamaica wearing 'Yes We Can' T-shirts and adorning their vehicles with 'Obama '08' bumper stickers realise that they were, in fact, supporting someone whose political views are largely anathema to our obstinately born-again version of Jamaican 'prosely-tics?'" he questioned in his letter.
According to Welsh his "fear" was that Jamaicans were only supporting Obama because of his skin colour and not what he stands for as a politician.
"When he announced his support for same-sex marriage there was a lot of noise, there was a lot of discontentment in the air and I found it ironic that the same people who were wearing Obama stickers and pins in such ardent support of this politician were so suddenly turning against him when it is that the writing on the wall was there for them to see from the very beginning," he told The Gleaner.