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PNP gives thumbs up to first year in power

Published:Friday | December 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

PRIME MINISTER Portia Simpson Miller is scheduled to make an address to the nation on the first anniversary of her inauguration on January 6.

The governing People's National Party (PNP), which yesterday published what it said is a list of its achievements one year after gaining state power, said the prime minister would use the occasion to give a comprehensive report on her government's first-year performance.

In the meantime, the Government said it has made strides in delivering on its electoral mandate secured last December with a 42-21 win in parliamentary elections.

"The Cabinet is comfortable, given all the circumstances, given all that we have inherited, we are comfortable with the first year's performance," PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill told The Gleaner yesterday.

Pickersgill refused to grade his government's performance. He, however, conceded that the absence of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) could be considered a shortcoming, but said it ought not be seen as a failure.

"I know how the country feels and would have hoped that perhaps the IMF negotiations would have been concluded, but it is understandable where we are," Pickersgill said.

"Based on the fact that the country is now aware of how important a relationship with the IMF is, the comfort level of the country at this stage perhaps would be better off if negotiations were concluded," he added.

JLP to blame

Pickersgill, however, blamed the last Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration for the delay in inking an agreement saying "the performance or the lack of it, that legacy is not doing any good".

The PNP has put the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) at the top of its list of achievements. The party said approximately 15,000 persons were employed in the first phase, and that some 40,000 persons will be employed during the second phase.

But JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang yesterday told The Gleaner that the PNP has "certainly failed".

"JEEP has not been very successful. We have had long delays in payment and the number of people alluded to in employment has been for very short-term, many of them for two days," Chang argued.

He said the PNP should be commended for continuing programmes for which it now take credit. Among them is the passage of the Telecommunications (Amendment) Act 2012 which brought a raft of changes to Jamaica's telecommunications landscape, including an instant reduction in voice call rates, in some instances by as much as 30 per cent.

electricity still too costly

The PNP has also taken credit for increased tourism arrivals by three per cent over the January to September period in 2012, as well as for the resumption of the north-south link of the Highway 2000 project.

Chang argued that while the PNP seeks to revel in the fact that it removed general consumption tax (GCT) from electricity for an estimated 80,000 more consumers, the cost of electricity is still prohibitive.

The PNP, in its manifesto, listed the rollback of GCT on electricity among 18 steps to full people power. However, the Government imposed a 300 kWh threshold on electricity consumption above which GCT would be charged.

Previously, the threshold on electricity consumption was 200 kWh. GCT on electricity was also increased from 10 to 16.5 per cent.

The PNP had romped to victory on the slogan, 'People Power', which Pickersgill when asked whether his government has delivered on that promise said a resounding "yes!"

But Chang said the slogan was catchy but has turned out to be empty. He argued that under the PNP, the people's standard of living is regressing as many cannot afford the cost of utilities and education or find jobs.

In the PNP's 2011 election manifesto, Simpson Miller said: "Our first task will of necessity be the shaping of a new agreement with the IMF, taking into account the present reality of the Jamaican society and the need to facilitate growth in our economy, if we are to make social and economic progress as a people."

Yesterday, Chang said the country currently suffers from a lack of direction and it is leading to a lack of confidence in the economy.

"We have go back to three quarters of negative growth, and we have a sliding dollar and there is still uncertainty surrounding any kind of settlement of our macroeconomic framework," he said.