Abject failures - Critics say PNP and JLP wasted 2012

Published: Sunday | December 23, 2012 Comments 0
Members of parliament have failed Jamaica - so say poltical analysts. - File
Members of parliament have failed Jamaica - so say poltical analysts. - File

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

An abysmal failure is how some prominent political observers have rated the performance of the Government and the Opposition in 2012.

The analysts suggest that the Portia Simpson Miller administration is still struggling to find its footing 12 months after being swept into office, while a languid Opposition appears at a loss.

"One gets the impression that the People's National Party (PNP) was just as surprised at winning the election as the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was at losing," asserted noted attorney Frank Phipps, a former member of the JLP.

"The Government remains distant, remote and out of touch with the needs of ordinary people," declared Dr Hume Johnson who graded the Government five out of a possible 10 points.

Johnson gave the Opposition four out of a possible 10 points for its performance this year.

Professor Anthony Clayton argued that it was unlikely that the Simpson Miller led-administration would produce much in its first year given its lack of achievements during its first 100 days in office.

"If they have not generated significant momentum in the first 100 days, the rest of their term of office is unlikely to be marked by high achievement," argued Clayton, a university professor.

He said the 100-day benchmark is a useful measure because it indicates whether an administration has come into office with a clear sense of what needs to be done and the energy to take control of the agenda.

For political analyst Richard 'Dickie' Crawford, the PNP has not used the "overwhelming mandate" it was given as well as it should.

"This extreme vote of confidence in two national elections has been squandered (by the PNP), while not consulting effectively with the people and pursuing some of the same old practices and strategies of the former Government which was rejected by the voters," complained Crawford.

He said the greatest weakness of the PNP administration has been its mishandling of the courts and justice system, the delay in modernising and passing the necessary legislation to promote a more effective fight against crime and its failure to stimulate economic investment and development.

"There have been successes in police work due to the doggedness of some officers, but the innovations which were promised in national security are still to be seen," said Crawford.

He further charged that the Government has not done as well as it should in dealing with the economy.

"The previous IMF (International Monetary Fund) agreement and subsequent economic fallout was well known when the Government came to office, yet they have used the same approach and same advisers which helped cause the problems in the first place," Crawford charged.

More decisive action

He said more decisive action is needed in the national interest on the basis of shared sacrifices rather than apparently trying to satisfy varying special interests.

"A debt forgiveness and effective management strategy must be pursued too."

Crawford argued that the Government is appearing to be arrogant and not people supportive, even after being warned by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.

"This shows up in the posture taken as regards the issue of corruption and the Office of the Contractor General, the FINSAC casualties, the Ezroy Millwood and Jamaica Public Service Company cases."

According to Crawford, the PNP still has some support and goodwill, but cannot afford to squander it.

The political observers also suggested that the Government is languishing in a state of denial as its own grading of its performance is in stark contrast to that of most Jamaicans.

In a score sheet issued late last week, the PNP claimed that the "Government has honoured the covenant it made with the Jamaican people in the lead-up to last year's general election victory".

But the analysts say that is not so.

"In many ways, the Government appears rudderless and not leader-driven," declared Johnson as she echoed the views of others.

"It must, therefore, review its performance, become much more self-critical and hold itself to account if it wants to inspire the confidence of the people and justify its election to office," Johnson added.

For its part, the Andrew Holness-led Opposition has admitted that it was carrying out serious introspection throughout the year and this should result in a more vibrant and united party next year.

However, that has not satisfied the analysts.

For Frank Phipps, neither party seems to have settled down to a realisation that there is a country to run and a people to lead.

"We need to see the Government's road map for development that all of us must follow; and an opposition also on the journey, holding the Government's feet to the fire for performance and accountability," declared Phipps.

That view is shared by Johnson, who believes that both parties have not demonstrated the leadership which can inspire confidence and pull the nation from the quagmire it is in.

"The PNP leader speaks a good rhetoric at times, and the organisation postures itself as the 'poor people's party'," she contended.

"But to become credible in the eyes of its constituents, it needs to follow this up with effective policies that are designed to respond directly and aggressively to the myriad challenges we face."

According to Johnson, the Opposition remains mired in a protracted leadership battle, covert though it is.

"This has distracted it from putting forward its own positions and helping to tackle the economic challenges that it had proposed it was better at doing," she argued.

Johnson asserted that Holness needs to assert himself and attend to the obvious bifurcation in his party, so that it can posture itself as a reformed/reforming organisation and a viable alternative.

That's a position shared by Clayton. "With regard to the Opposition, perhaps the true measure of the stature of a political party is whether it can make effective use of a period in opposition," said Clayton.

"This is the time to take stock, have a very frank internal discussion, and then take decisive action. Why did the party lose the election? Are there old ideas that need to be abandoned? Are there discredited former ministers who need to be replaced?

"This kind of soul-searching may be painful sometimes, but it is very necessary. A period in Opposition should be seen as the time for renewal."

For Crawford, the Opposition seems to have lost its way. He said the announcement by Holness that the party is embarking on an election campaign was a colossal political mistake in light of the circumstances today.

"The Opposition needs to develop a relevant philosophy for Jamaica and move from the traditional press-release strategy mirroring 'we did it better' and offer some solutions for moving the country forward," said Crawford.

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