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'Opposition green with envy' - PM says Labourites jealous of PNP's success with IMF tests, points out Holness' comical theatrics as mocking the people

Published:Tuesday | March 24, 2015 | 5:13 PMDaraine Luton
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller makes her contribution to the Budget Debate in Parliament yesterday.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller yesterday shot back at critics of her Government for saying her administration is passing tests administered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but failing the people's test.

Contributing to the Budget Debate in the House of Representatives, the prime minister said it appears as if "some people are green with envy that we are passing the IMF tests".

She said also that the "Opposition would have you believe that we have not made any progress".

Green is the colour of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), whose leader, Andrew Holness, used the Debate last week to say that while it is a good thing to pass the IMF tests, the Government must also pass the growth test.

"If they don't pass the growth test, the passing of the IMF tests alone will mean pain and pressure for the people of Jamaica," said Holness, who turned up with three food baskets to illustrate the extent to which the fortunes of Jamaicans have got worse since the Simpson Miller administration took power in January 2012.

But Simpson Miller characterised Holness' reliance on the food baskets as "comical theatrics" and said, "When I introduced the food basket to Parliament many years ago, it was not meant to poke fun at the plight of the people."

"I feel the pain our people are facing and know the difficulties. The pain is real. People's pain should never be exploited for cheap theatrics and political grandstanding," she said.

The prime minister further scolded the political opposition saying that "if we did not pass the seven IMF tests, there would be nothing in the basket, except, perhaps, a little eucalyptus oil".

The eucalyptus oil comment was a jab at Holness, who, at a political rally in Mandeville, Manchester, in December 2011, said his grandmother gave him eucalyptus oil as medicine.

At the time, Holness, then prime minister, said the economy was ill and needed bitter medicine for its revival.

During the Budget Debate yesterday, Simpson Miller said the previous Government damaged Jamaica's name internationally and her administration had to secure the support of the IMF to rescue the Jamaican economy.

"At that time, the multilaterals were not keen on re-engaging with Jamaica. They had been stung by broken promises of the Government of Jamaica between 2010 and 2011," she said.

The prime minister said that as part of a move to drive growth on the island, her administration would be investing in upgrading the physical infrastructure with $1.5 billion to be spent on the rehabilitation of 60 kilometres of roadways and $127 million for the repair of six bridges under the Major Infrastructure Development Programme.

Additionally, Simpson Miller said $2.2 billion is to be spent by the Urban Developemnt Corporation on capital projects in the new fiscal year. The projects will include spending in tourism-related areas as well as on the upgrade of downtown Kingston.

According to Simpson Miller, her administration's growth strategy includes attracting more investment and creating more jobs. She added that growth will be even more obvious as more local and overseas business persons choose to invest in Jamaica and more entrepreneurs formalise their businesses.

"The economic foundations of our country are much stronger today than they were when we took office in 2012. Jamaica is a much better place. Things are not perfect, but we are making progress," the prime minister said.

She told Jamaicans that the nation was at a pivotal period in history and begged for patience and understanding.

"We have come thus far, lifted by the resilient spirit of the Jamaican people; propelled by their undying faith in themselves and their country. We must continue to build on the foundations laid over the past three years," she said.

"I call on my Jamaican people - my brothers and sisters. Let us stay the course! Let us find that inner strength to push forward!" she added.