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Norris McDonald | Peter Phillips, opportunism and the PNP’s leadership fight

Published:Tuesday | June 25, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Dr Peter Phillips, the People’s National Party (PNP) president, is facing a serious leadership challenged from Peter Bunting. His desperate supporters are spreading an argument that “this is disloyalty”.

But didn’t Dr Phillips challenge Portia Simpson Miller twice for the PNP leadership?

In the meantime, while Portia was doing as Michael Manley said, rolling up one’s sleeves to work hard in finding solutions to Jamaica’s urgent problems of poverty, unemployment, crime and violence and other ills, Phillips, it is reported, was busy meeting American diplomats to ‘diss Portia’.


Phillips’ action was the subject of a Gleaner exposé, published July 11, 2011, which was based on Wikileaks documents in which Phillips called Portia a “national disaster!”

If he considered Portia ‘a national disaster’ and said he wouldn’t serve under her, then why did he?

To add more insult to this backstabbing injury, Phillips reportedly told the American officials that “he did not want to be part of another Government led by Simpson Miller, saying it would be too distasteful,” The Gleaner reported.

He also “agreed with US Embassy officials that Jamaica risked becoming like Haiti if Simpson Miller, whom he labelled a disaster, returned to power”, The Gleaner report said.

Dr Phillips reportedly said he felt disgusted about Simpson Miller and yet he served as a government minister under her until 2016, when the PNP lost to Andrew Holness and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

So why did he remain a member of the PNP leadership?


The interesting thing is, Simpson Miller is the only member of Jamaica’s political leadership, of both PNP and JLP, who came from the very bowels of the black working class to become prime minister of Jamaica.

This is the true humanism of Mrs Simpson Miller that the elitist members of the PNP and the rest of the Jamaican society never understood.

As a young lady in South Western St Andrew, she made a conscious choice to serve people. Because of this, she rose up through the ranks of the PNP. Her political grit was tested when her constituents faced extreme political violence and she stood firm under fire.

In 1976, both Edward Seaga and Pearnel Charles underestimated her moral character as a popular leader in South Western St Andrew, and they both came away the sad loser.


And what of Phillips’s track record as a finance minister?

Jake Johnston of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), in a recent study, noted the following:

n Dr Peter Phillips presented to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “the most austere budget in the world”. According to Johnston (April 2015), the Jamaica economy under Dr Phillips’ direction ran a budget surplus of 7.5 per cent, at a time when even Greece, who was in a quarrel with the IMF, “was only expected to run a primary surplus of 3.0 percent of GDP (gross domestic product)”.

n Phillips put the Jamaican economy severely at risks by accumulating surplus faster than even the oil-producing countries. This was not even a requirement by the IMF or the World Bank.

A direct consequence of this on the Jamaican economy – and on poor people – is that real GDP shrank to a smaller level than it was in 2008.

n As finance minister, Phillips also created history by paying the IMF US$168 million more than Jamaica had received.

Why does this matter?


Even the World Bank was shocked that, under Phillips’s watch, Jamaica ran one of the meanest, most austere budgets in the world!

The result – on the current expenditure side – starved the Jamaican economy of badly needed cash flow for day-to-day spending.

Who is to tell? Maybe this helped to contribute to the PNP’s 2016 general election loss.

The misconception in today’s educated elite is that they fail to recognise that the days when the traditional middle class had a monopoly on education and knowledge are long gone.

This is why it is not enough to have a whole donkey cart of university degrees, like Dr Phillips or, in Damion Crawford’s case, an entire goat pen filled with university papers.


The PNP leadership contest between Peter Phillips and Peter Bunting is a necessary step in the process of rebuilding, which is badly needed.

This leadership challenge can give the PNP a chance to redefine itself.

The black working class, urban and rural poor people, educated middle class and Jamaica’s dynamic business community must be confident that they can put their trust in the PNP and that the elected leaders won’t back-stab the ‘down-pressed’ people.

People must be judged by their leadership skills, my dear readers. And political leadership must be based upon good moral character, sound judgement, political skills, loyalty to something, loyalty to the people, and a belief in a common, unifying, organising principle around which the vast majority of the Jamaican nation can unite. That’s political vision!

The PNP must once again reassert its historical mission as a true national independence movement dedicated to the upliftment of the urban and rural poor, the workers, small, medium and big farmers, and Jamaica’s dynamic business people.

That is the challenge Jamaica faces today, and I do not think Dr Peter Phillips has the intellectual capacity, political wisdom or organising and leadership skills necessary to achieve such a significant goal.

That is just the bitta truth!

Norris McDonald is an economic journalist, social researcher and political analyst. Email feedback to and