Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Irked by statements made by leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness at his party's annual conference on Sunday, Peter Bunting, general secretary of the governing People's National Party (PNP) said Holness' utterances were aimed at causing economic instability.
"What the leader of the opposition seems intent on doing is undermining the confidence of the business community in the economy and I don't think that will end up serving anyone, certainly not the poorest that he is now newly intent on championing," Bunting said.
In his address to delegates on Sunday, Holness said the failure of the Government to secure a pact with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was placing the economy at risk.
"The longer we remain without an agreed IMF programme, the greater the speculation on the sustainability of Jamaica's economy by analysts and financial commentators such as Bloomberg," Holness said.
He pointed to the current slide of the value of the Jamaican dollar and declining Net International Reserves as signs of an economy in which confidence is waning.
"We hear that the Government is trying to negotiate the best deal. We would want to know what a 'best deal' looks like, and how long the Government is prepared to wait for that best deal, and does that 'best deal' adequately address the fundamental structural issues that face the economy. Or does it seek to postpone confronting the problems for another generation of Jamaicans to address 50 years hence?" Holness said.
On Tuesday, Bunting, describing Holness' statements as irresponsible, said their effect "can only be to put pressure on the exchange rate that is going to increase the cost of living which impacts the poor".
The PNP called the press conference to respond to what its Chairman Robert Pickersgill said were "unpatriotic and dangerous comments" from Holness.
Misleading the nation
Pickersgill, however, was not pointed on the most egregious aspects of Holness' address, saying he did not watch it, but based on what he heard in the media, Holness was misleading the nation on critical issues such as the IMF negotiations.
"It is not the time for that kind of performance to come from an alternative prime minister," Pickersgill said.
"We have heard him on a number of occasions bemoaning the fact about the IMF timetable despite the several corrections," the PNP chairman added.
Outlining the various missteps of the former administration in handling the IMF matter, which subsequently led to the death of that agreement, Pickersgill said it was "ironic that the JLP's leader referred to the current administration as not being frank with the people of Jamaica".
He noted that the then JLP administration maintained its silence regarding the status of the IMF agreement for 12 months.
In blasting Holness, Pickersgill said "Every time he opens his mouth it is either intended to run the dollar down or to be negative.
"It should be obvious to him at this time that if he is not coming up with some suggestions as to how we should proceed, and how we can achieve a conclusion of the negotiations at a quicker pace, then what is it all about?" the PNP chairman said.
The Government is currently seeking a deal with the IMF to allow it to gain access to multilateral funds for balance of payment support.