Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
"FISCAL TARGETS cannot eat and people cannot sleep on balance sheet."
That was the bold declaration from People's National Party (PNP) President Portia Simpson Miller at a campaign meeting in Mandeville, Manchester, on the eve of last December's general election.
Throughout the campaign, Simpson Miller labelled the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration, which then formed the Government, as being uncaring and wicked.
She also said it was focusing so much on attempting to balance the books at the expense of people's lives.
Now, eight months after taking the reins as prime minister, Simpson Miller will today address party supporters at the PNP's 74th annual conference at the National Arena.
Fitz Jackson, a solid Comrade, has conceded that the party has not been able to deliver on the hope that the people were promised, but said this is due mainly to a ramshackle economy which it inherited.
"There is some amount of disappointment out there that their situation has not been made better up to now. They are not angry at us. They are disappointed that their situation has not improved, but they remain more hopeful and I hear that expressed a lot," Jackson told The Sunday Gleaner.
The PNP romped to power with a massive 42-21 seat win over the JLP in the December 29 general election.
The party, with its 'People Power' slogan, had convinced the majority of voters that things were heading in the wrong direction under the JLP and that the PNP was their best choice.
By March, the PNP secured a resounding 2:1 victory in local government elections, underscoring the confidence of the people that it was the party to manage the affairs of the country.
Jackson, who represents South St Catherine, said the margin of victory was "a demonstration of greater hope that things will be better for them under the leadership of the People's National Party".
Dr Dayton Campbell, who was among the new members of parliament elected last December, said that hope is being kept alive amid the turbulence.
"The expectations are high as persons are finding it extremely difficult to meet their daily needs," said Campbell.
He told The Sunday Gleaner that in North West St Ann, the constituency he represents, the people have not lost faith in the PNP administration.
While conceding that some of the high expectations have not been met, Campbell argued that leadership is important in straddling expectations and reality.
"We as politicians have to be sensitive to the needs of our people and be creative in seeing how best we can create opportunities to aid in alleviating the challenges being experienced," said Campbell.
"I have done 958 back-to-school medical checks free of charge; given out 1,500 book vouchers for back to school; assisted more than 500 farmers with chicken, chicken feed, seeds, fertiliser, tools, etc. So I understand their plight as I, too, know exactly what it's like to have little or nothing to survive on," the first-time MP said.
Campbell said he does not think the PNP made any promises on the campaign trail that would cause the party now to be in a pickle with its supporters.
Instead, Campbell said the expectations for the party to bring salvation to a failing land may be misplaced.
"I think people tend to forget most of the time that it has only been eight months since assuming the government," said Campbell.
He argued that the party has already started to deliver on some key promises, among them the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP).
The JEEP secretariat this month said the first phase exceeded its projection of 5,000 persons employed. It said more than 15,000 persons have been employed in JEEP Phase I.
Phase II of JEEP is scheduled to begin this month and is expected to employ more than 35,000 persons, the secretariat said.
In the meantime, Jackson argued that it is easy for people to get carried away during election campaigns, thinking that milk and honey will flow from having their candidates elected.
"The exuberance in an election, even when you warn people they still have their expectations. And they have the confidence in the Government that they would make things better for them," Jackson said.
On the campaign trail, Simpson Miller said, "My campaign will promise nothing that we are not certain we can deliver." She also told Jamaicans that she is aware of their plight and said "help is on the way."
She, however, promised to use JEEP to "divide the Jamaica Labour Party river so that the people can pass freely into a land of prosperity development and growth".
Eight months since taking power, the JEEP has rolled out, but poverty levels remain high and economic growth appears an abstract term.