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The February 25 General Elections: Portia Betrayed

The February 25 General Elections: Portia Betrayed Political Commentator and community activist, O. Dave Allen
The Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller sacrificed her political capital and her future for the restructuring of the Jamaican economy, in a manner, not unlike that of colleague former Prime Minister from Barbados, Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford.

Sandiford is most remembered for implementing stringent austerity measures in Barbados during the early 1990's. He took the dramatic action that was needed in order to prevent further decline of the island's failing economy while meeting IMF bailout requirements.

Former Prime Minister Sandiford, in an interview with Jamaican journalist Cliff Hughes, was asked if he would have - with hindsight - done the same thing today. Sandiford replied: "I think that the price that I paid was small in comparison to the good that came to the country."

The price that Portia paid for the bold effort at restructuring the Jamaican economy, is huge, and the sacrifices made by the Jamaican people enormous. This must not be allowed to be squandered by the Holness administration.

 

 

The Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller came to office as a populist, and a legendary lover of the poor. That reputation led to exceedingly high expectations by the working poor.

On the other hand, she was feared by sections of the private sector who anticipated that she would pursue the politics of distribution, thus, the squandering state resources to sustain her unparalleled popularity.

She was despised by section of the middle class given her class origins and outlook. Ironically, her tenure was characterized by a steadfast commitment to the restructuring of the Jamaican economy to the benefit of that class that despises her and betrayed her.

Under the Portia Simpson Miller led administration:

  1. Jamaica was listed among the least corrupt country in the Americas, having improved from a ranking of 14th of 31 countries in 2014 to seventh of 26 in 2015, taking it into the top 25 per cent in the Americas for the first time in nine years.
  2. INDECOM reported that figures for the past year showed that police fatal shootings, dipped below 100 for the first time in 16 years.
  3. There was a 15.5 per cent decrease in police fatal shootings last year.
  4. The World Trade Organization (WTO) praised Jamaica for its progress in trade facilitation and economic reform
  5. Business and consumer confidence rose and Jamaica ended last year with the best-performing stock market in the world a stock market that surged 80 per cent in that year.
  6. Forbes Magazine told us that Jamaica’s ease of doing business has made us number one in the region.
  7. The World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2016 has ranked Jamaica’s economy in the top ten most improved economies worldwide.
  8. Jamaica’s inflation rate continues to trend downwards closing at 40-year low of 1.8 percentage
  9. The net international reserves stood at US$2.91 billion at the end of last yea
  10. The debt-to-GDP ratio has been sliced by 20 per cent.
  11. The Government has boasted a balanced budget.
  12. Foreign direct investment has doubled in the last three years,
  13. Record investments in tourism, the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, and other areas of the economy.
  14. US $700 million invested in the North-South Highway;
  15. Millions of dollars invested in 6000 new hotel rooms.
  16. 15,000 new hotel rooms coming to the North Coast in the near future.
  17. BPO sector will create 3,000 jobs. In total, there are 30,000 to 40,000 jobs coming on stream.
  18. On the international front, and in respect to foreign policy, Jamaica has never had it so good. No other Prime Minister enjoys the kind of friendly relation that Portia benefited from at the same time: USA, Cuba China, Venezuela and the United Kingdom. The Portia Simpson Miller led administration hosted the President of the United States, Barrack Obama and saw the heads of other world governments visiting regularly as a testimony to Jamaica’s resurgence from its pariah status under the Bruce Golding led JLP government.

Embolden by Jamaica’s positive economic outlook, the party seized the window of opportunity to call the General Elections.

“But the tigers come at night, with their voices soft as thunder, as they tear your hopes apart, as they turn your dreams to shame“

From I Dreamed a Dream" is a song from the musical Les Misérables.

The opposition was broke, starved of donor funding from the private sector, the leadership of Andrew Holness was in question; and the JLP fractious. For the first time in the history of Peoples National Party, the party enjoyed the full and explicit support for its policies by the formal private sector, the international donor community and local and international financial intermediaries.

Yet not much could be shown by way of social programmes in keeping with the historic characteristic, policies and programmes of previous PNP administrations.

Notwithstanding the positive economic indicators, the base of the party was in revolt caused by the perception that the party was fraternizing with the rich and the powerful and doing very little by way of social programmes to fulfill the reasonable expectations of low budget people, reeling from the vagaries of the IMF’s harsh austerity programme.

This state of affair betrayed the core principles of a socialist party committed to advancing the interest of the working class of the country.

That caused the PNP to be seen in some quarters as the big man’s party particularly by the young who have very little experience of the party’s social advance. Coupled with the fact that, the benefits of the macroeconomic indicators, did not reflect positively in the lives of ordinary Jamaicans.

I don’t believe that the JLP are prepared to follow the example of Portia Simpson Miller and put country ahead of party; for those ominous warnings, foreboding of things to come which caused the PNP to call the election, is looming on the horizon. We know that Prime Minister Holness and the JLP are without the political capital and goodwill to weather the storm. Unaccustomed to pass tests, the JLP may well opt for a non IMF path.

The masses will not be as patient with this JLP administration as they were with Sista P. The JLP came into office based on the promise of prosperity. We know from experience and the from the text book that the masses will not defer gratification.

One of the down side of the neo liberal economic policy promoted by the IMF, coupled with the inherited deformed economic structure that foster the highest level of inequity and with its offshoot, a pool of Lumpen proletariat readily availed to sell their votes to the highest bidder.

The iniquitous economic architecture with its skewed distribution of wealth allows for a small capitalist elite to undetermined the outcome of the elections. It was reported that in the final days of the election the Western Parishes was washed with money from dubious origins, many electors, the idle young men did not vote until after three when the money came.

“The constitution of a lumpen-proletariat is a phenomenon which obeys its own logic, and neither the brimming activity of the missionaries nor the decrees of the central government can check its growth” to quote from Franz Fannon The Wretched of the Earth. Must be taken into consideration by any appraisal of the PNP defeat in the last General Elections.

The Drumblair colonial project and its civilizing mission have run its course. Going forward the form and content of the party organization must be reviewed including the moribund group structure. The vaunted alliance of the classes needs to be renegotiated for it is evident that section of the working class at the base are alienated to the extent that they stayed home on Election Day.

Mr. Mark Wignal in his recent article “Can Audley Shaw defuse this time bomb”; have good reason to “moved from being purely concerned to being a little bit scared of the many pockets of idle young men hanging out on street corners and in community hamlets doing nothing more than smoking weed and planning their next sexual conquest”.

This seemingly horde of idlers successful waged a campaign against the former Minister of National Security and the PNP in General Elections for restricting their access to Western Union and for collusion with the US government to extradite Jamaica. Their influences permeate the family and the community.

Continuing, Fanon speaks to “These classless idlers will by militant and decisive action discover the path that leads to nationhood. They won’t become reformed characters to please colonial society, fitting in with the morality of its rulers; quite the contrary, they take for granted the impossibility of entering the city save by hand-grenades and revolvers. These workless less-than-men are rehabilitated in their own eyes and in the eyes of history. The prostitutes too, and the maids . . . , all the hopeless dregs of humanity, all who turn in circles between suicide and madness, will recover their balance, once more go forward, and march proudly in the great procession of the awakened nation.”

Then we would have seen the value of a Portia Simpson Miller the balm in Gilead.

This piece is written by political commentator, O. Dave Allen who can be contacted at:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Last modified onSunday, 08 May 2016 18:46

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