The PNP’s First 100 Days
It has been 100 days since Portia Simpson Miller took the reins of Government here in Jamaica; and as is customary across the world after 100 days, the new Prime Minister and her government are being graded on their performance thus far. I wish to lend my voice to the assessment of what I consider to be the most important areas the new government should be focused on and record my comments on the Prime Minister’s report card.
The Economy D –
National Security F
(1) The Economy
Many of us will remember the leadership debate during the lead up to the 2011 General Elections, then Opposition Leader Simpson Miller declared that her Government would seek and receive a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as renegotiate the terms of the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) contract with the Chinese government within two weeks of taking office – neither of which has happened. Fail. In fact, the Finance Minister has hinted that there is very little room to manoeuvre, something the JLP government repeatedly stressed. I’ve noted with concern that the new Finance Minister has yet to give a comprehensive statement on the nation’s current fiscal and economic situation, despite being critical of his predecessor’s tendency to keep the country ignorant of the state of the economy. Considering that reality, one would have expected Dr. Phillips to be more forthcoming in his pronouncements on the state of the economy, that has not been the case. However, to it’s credit, the Government has launched it’s much touted Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) and therefore deserves commendations in that regard. While it is yet to be seen if this crash programme will put a dent in the unemployment crisis, I believe the government should be credited for the attempt. Of particular concern is the delay in the tabling of the national budget. This effectively puts the country on autopilot and I believe it is a sign of weakness, and demonstrates that the government is unsure about what path to take with respect to the economy. Having considered all these factors, I give the Government a D – on the economy.
(2) National Security
This is perhaps the subject which Mrs. Simpson Miller and her Minister of Security, Peter Bunting, needs the most remedial help. The dramatic spike in murders and other violent crimes coupled with the alarming assault on citizens by members of the security forces all contribute to a dismal performance by the new government in securing the citizenry. I consider the Minister’s pronouncements as it relates to crime reduction little more than wishful thinking, completely unrealistic considering the current fiscal space we are operating in. If I recall correctly, the Minister vowed to reduce murders to one per day. I am interested in knowing how this will be accomplished, considering the current state of the security forces – a lack vehicles, limited public confidence, corruption among members and unprofessional conduct, to name a few – I believe the Minister should spend his time developing the scientific side of crime fighting, ensuring that there is adequate forensic and ballistics capabilities. He should make the case forcefully to have the anti gang legislation tabled, debated and passed by the parliament, so that the police will be able to challenge organised crime. I believe the Government should also move to restructuring the constabulary force, which was formed to crush a rebellion; more needs to be done to ensure the force is modern and relevant. There also needs to be more effective and stringent policing in areas of concern. There needs to an urgent push to strengthen INDECOM – to ensure the security forces operate within the confines of the law. National Security gets a F.
I give the new Government a C in this area. The new Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, has been very vocal and active so far. I am particularly pleased with his assurances of working with those schools which the former Minister had labelled as “failing”, as I believe it was unwise to single out schools in that way. Minister Thwaites has articulated an all encompassing view of education which I think is positive and will only serve to improve the sector. However, I take serious issue with the costly review of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) – I believe every decision made by the government should be fiscally prudent, I’m not sure this one met that criteria. Also of concern is the fact that international specialists are being paid to conduct the review. We could not find such specialists here in Jamaica?
I believe energy independence in this country, indeed this region, is critical now more than ever. I’m not convinced this government takes the issue seriously. Gas prices are at a high, with no solution being offered to ease the pressure by the new Minister. The controversial campaign promise to remove GCT from electricity has not yet been kept and the Minister continues to dance around the issue – he needs to declare the government’s position one way or another. High gas prices and no solution from the government coupled with no real long term policy on energy independence for the country leads me to give the new administration a F on Energy.
Areas of Concern :
– Expensive and Expansive Executive arm of Government (Cabinet to cost 111 million dollars) despite a promise from Simpson Miller that the Cabinet would not be large.
– State Boards being packed with PNP loyalists and sympathisers. There should be an attempt to be balanced in naming individuals to state boards and agencies.
– The House of Representatives does not meet often enough. The Leader of Government Business needs to address this as there are numerous pieces of legislation which require attention.
Despite the pretty list released by the Prime Minister to outline her achievements, the country appears to be running on autopilot. No budget. No plan. No solutions. The Simpson Miller Government has failed this semester.