Wed | Oct 18, 2017

EDITORIAL - Waiting for the JLP's economic policy

Published:Monday | November 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM

It is nearly three years since the Simpson Miller administration's return to office and, therefore, just about two years before a general election is constitutionally due.

It is also a year since Andrew Holness defeated Audley Shaw's challenge for the leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party and the leadership of the parliamentary opposition. It's half a year since Mr Holness established a task force, headed by banker Aubyn Hill, to advise his party on economic policy and strategy.

No issue in Jamaica is subject to so much and such intense debate as the state of the island's economy, especially in the context of the reforms being implemented under the government's agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and whether the administration will sustain the fiscal discipline required by the programme, given the imminence of an election.

In the circumstance, we are surprised by the failure of the Opposition, particularly its leader, Mr Holness, and Mr Shaw, the shadow finance minister, to seriously reference Mr Hill's work and to outline a strategy for the management of the economy should the JLP return to office.

It, astonishingly, didn't happen a week ago at the JLP's annual conference at which Mr Shaw belittled the government's management of the economy, ridiculed its meeting of IMF's tough performance targets and branded Richard Byles "a mouthpiece" of the governing People's National Party, for reporting, in his capacity as a chairman of the public/private-sector oversight committee, on these economic outcomes. On the face of it, Mr Shaw, under who, as finance minister, a previous IMF programme collapsed, seemingly doesn't like this one.

At the same time, Mr Holness highlighted his "difference" with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, as a man who is willing to tell Jamaicans the truth and pay the political consequences, if necessary; like in the last election, when, having had a short stint as PM, he warned of "bitter medicine" to come if the JLP retained the government.

It remains unclear whether under the JLP Jamaica would retain the tight fiscal policy and the debt-reduction strategy demanded by the Fund, and if Mr Holness and Mr Shaw agree on the way forward and are in sync on Mr Hill's recommendations, whatever those are.