Monday night's unprecedented joint broadcast by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Peter Phillips about the proposed restructuring of Jamaica's domestic debt - and other measures to reform the economy - is a welcome first step.
But Mrs Simpson Miller and Dr Phillips will understand if this newspaper, as do many other Jamaicans, wants to see the Government do more to be assured that the administration is not merely flattering to deceive. For we have been here before.
A mere three years ago, the then Jamaica Labour Party administration restructured the domestic debt, a move that was supposed to have placed Jamaica on a path to economic sustainability. It soon lost its way.
The significant positive from Monday night's affair was that the Government gave Jamaicans more than a broad sketch of a programme to begin to ease the country's debt burden. And there was no attempt to hide the fact that the burden will be painful. The restructuring of the domestic debt will cost savers and pensioners J$17 billion annually over the next seven years. While there will apparently be no major cuts in public-sector jobs, employees will have to undergo new rounds of wage freezes.
IMPORTANT PUBLIC SIGNAL
The joint delivery of the news by the PM and Dr Phillips was an important public signal that Mrs Simpson Miller, who had appeared distant from the process, was fully embracing and taking ownership of the necessary adjustment which Jamaica must undergo.
These important signals notwithstanding, there remain important issues to be addressed by the Government if it is to win the confidence of Jamaicans that it has not only the right mix of policies, but the will and necessary skills to execute them.
For instance, the other prior actions required by the International Monetary Fund, before it signs off on an economic support agreement, are mostly still in arrears, although Dr Phillips indicated that they will shortly be implemented. It is neither spite nor unreasonableness, therefore, on the part of those who may question why the debt restructuring/penalty on savers came ahead of the tangible hard actions to reform the public sector, including a reduction of its wage bill as a proportion of GDP.
Further, it would have been good for the Government to demonstrate to the public that it has the technical skills within the political/policy apparatus and the bureaucracy to effectively manage the transformation that most of us hope to be at hand.
The ongoing confusion over an energy policy, the bungling withdrawal of the Jamaica Public Service Company's preferred status to build a 360-megawatt power plant, and the seeming decision by the energy minister, that playing Mas was a greater priority than confronting these issues in a time of crisis, don't inspire confidence on this front.
In that regard, Mrs Simpson Miller has a major job to do if her Government is to, as Dr Phillips put it, "get with the programme". It is an opportunity to restructure her Cabinet. Perhaps half of its members, who the PM may have presumed to be important as ballasts, are merely deadweight sinking the ship.
Having jettisoned the unproductive lot, Mrs Simpson Miller could do even better by using the Senate to bring some technically competent people into her Government.
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