Robert Wynter, Contributor
THE YEAR 2012 will be remembered for many things - our nation's semi-centennial anniversary and its attendant celebrations; the London Olympics and all the glory our athletes brought us; and West Indies victory in the world T20 competition with major contributions from Jamaicans.
However, the one thing that has occupied the head space of most Jamaicans has been the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In fact, while we briefly basked in the glory of our various achievements, things were soon forgotten and we returned to the normal ways of life. The IMF negotiations, however, have kept us on the edge of our collective seats for a very long time. We have literally behaved as if the future of our young country and, indeed, each and every one of us, is depended totally on the outcome of these negotiations. At times it appeared as if the Government went on pause, unwilling to make any strategic or other transformational shift until the outcome of the negotiations are evident. Spurred on by those in the media, many private sector companies also went into pause mode, not wanting to be the proverbial fools to rush in where wise men fear to tread. This, in effect, was the stranglehold the IMF negotiations had on our national psyche, explaining why I believe it has been the most significant issue in 2012.
Phillips weathered the storm
While there is collective responsibility by a Cabinet, and while there is a substantial team that undertakes the negotiations, the person at the centre of this major issue for 2012 has been the minister of finance, Dr Peter Phillips. From the moment he announced a delay in the tabling of the 2012-2013 budget, he has been criticised by many, including me, for the poor performance of the economy and for the uncertainty surrounding the negotiations. In fact, the major criticism has been that he will not meet the December 31, 2012 deadline which he promised the nation. If, indeed, an IMF deal will have such a major impact on our country's future, we must ask ourselves in fairness: why is a delay of a couple months such a big deal?
If and when the IMF deal is consummated (I have publicly predicted February 2013) and the impact is as major as we believe; then the words of Winston Churchill as he addressed the House of Commons on August 20, 1940 would ring true for Jamaica: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few". According to Wikipedia, Prime Minister Churchill referred to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force pilots who were at the time fighting the Nazis in the Battle of Britain - the pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe, with Britain expecting a German invasion.
We may not be facing an invasion from foreign forces; however, the economic situation is so bad that many persons in Jamaica today face circumstances similar to what many Britons faced in 1940. The difficulty that Phillips and his team have encountered is the multi-faceted special interest stakeholders who must give up something and whose respective egos must be stroked accordingly. To have weaved his way delicately and expertly among the raindrops, to have stared down many, including the IMF, and to be now on the brink of a breakthrough, I confer Dr Peter Phillips with the title of 'Personality of the Year'.
Ode to the IMF negotiations
To commemorate my award to Dr Phillips and to attempt to explain the negotiation process, I have amended the lyrics to the famous tune Do You Hear What I Hear? According to Wikipedia, this Christmas song was written in October 1962 with lyrics by No'l Regney and music by Gloria Shayne. Here goes.
Said the prime minister to the finance minister, Listen to what I say
Audley left the treasury empty finance minister; Listen to what I say
Now go man go, go to Washington and return with an IMF deal
And return with an IMF deal
Said the finance minister to the IMF, Do you know what I know?
Jamaica is very broke IMF, Do you know what I know?
Debt is high, bauxite and remittance down; we need help to shore up our reserves
We need help to shore up our reserves
Said the IMF to the finance minister, listen to what we say
Get your house in order finance minister, listen to what we say
Reform, reform, you've got to reform: tax, pension and the public sector
Tax, pension and the public sector
Said the finance minister to the Cabinet; do you hear what I hear?
IMF is very serious Cabinet; do you hear what I hear?
We have to be far more efficient; we must each transform our ministries
We must each transform our ministries
Said a Cabinet member to the finance minister, do you know what I know?
My ministry is lean and mean finance minister; do you know what I know?
We have strategised and have no consultants; it is other ministries must transform
It is other ministries must transform
Said the finance minister to the unions, do you see what I see?
Pension is a problem, unions; do you see what I see?
We can't afford to continue along this way; workers must now start to contribute
Workers must now start to contribute
Said the unions to the finance minister, listen to what we say
The workers' load is heavy finance minister; listen to what we say
They can't afford to take more on their backs; it is the big man you must confront
It is the big man you must confront!
Said the finance minister to the private sector; do you hear what I hear?
All these waivers have to cease private sector; do you hear what I hear?
We can't continue to spoon-feed you; it is time to become competitive
It is time to become competitive
Said the private sector to the finance minister, do you know what we know?
We need the incentives finance minister; do you know what we know?
Without the waivers we cannot create jobs, it is really dreadful out there
It is really dreadful out there
Said the finance minister to the IMF, listen to what I say
I have calmed stakeholders IMF; listen to what I say
But with regards to waivers, I need my leeway; it goes to the heart of sovereignty
It goes to the heart of sovereignty
Said the IMF to the finance minister, do you see what we see?
You have done the prior actions, finance minister; do you see what we see?
Although you released Gladstone and Wesley; we have recommended JA to our board
We have recommended JA to our board
Then said all the people to the finance minister, do you hear what we hear?
You have signed the IMF deal finance minister; do you hear what we hear?
We now have confidence in the economy; Peter you are our Man of the year
Peter you are our Man of the Year!
Robert Wynter is the Managing Director of Strategic Alignment Limited, which facilitates strategy articulation and organizational transformation to enable increased performance. Comments are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org