It may be overstating things to say we are between Heaven and Hell, in Jamaica, but it feels that way.Christmas is a few weeks away and most people’s minds have turned towards celebrations during the season. The governing party’s main electioneering honchos had given a clear indication that, though national elections are not due officially till 2017, they thought that having them “sooner rather than later” would be good. No one less than the Finance Minister–who is also the PNP’s Campaign Director, so no mere ‘bit player’–made it clear that, left to him, early elections were the order of the day because ‘uncertainty in the political domain tends to trigger speculation in the commercial sector, which is not good for the economic environment in which Jamaica is operating’. Now, Dr. Phillips was clear that the decision on timing was not his, but the PM’s prerogative. However, Cabinet members and election campaign top men don’t usually go out on a public limb unless they have the backing or the clear signal that they will not be walking off into space and falling into the abyss with their remarks. That the PM needed to be ‘touched’ and has not yet received the ‘signal’ is now the stuff of both mirth and consternation.
Now, I’m not saying that nothing but the economy matters, but without the economy in good health, other things don’t matter as much. The Finance Minister put the risks of delay so, in mid-October:
- “The more you will find that people are going to start speculating, hedging their decisions on whether to invest or keep their money in foreign currency rather than local account,”
- “It can threaten to derail what is still an important course of economic reform that we have to go through.”
He added that the private sector was not looking for any long election period, which tends to have a drag on business activities. So, what do we have?
Having teased the population with the idea of elections before year-end–and let’s not play games and pretend that the coquetry was not with such a proposition in mind–but then, not being ‘touched’ to call the event, the economy is now in a worse position than would have been the case. We now have more uncertainty, with no near-term date in sight, if you take ‘next year’ to be as long as it can be wide.
So, people are floundering, still unsure of what they should do–just as the finance minister feared. For what benefits?
One of the unerring features of the current administration has been a singular, or is it multiple (?), inability to get messaging right. Dr. Phillips made clear that “It is our responsibility as an administration to communicate it [economic issues] better.”But, that need stretches across all fields and just isn’t there.
I revert to this question again and again. What does it mean to talk about ‘joined-up government’ when you cannot get the pieces to join up?
In the meantime, we are saddled with what seems like more hot air dispensation about things that really don’t matter to most people. Sure, there are issues of transparency about the finances and assets of people in public life, but don’t burden me by trying to make Mr. Holness’ and his new house the pinnacle of that issue. Every MP declare his assets and liabilities, and just put away the posturing.Like cocks preparing to fight and scuffing up dirt, is how I see much of the maneuvering.
If you’re waiting for some clear position on issues, then I suggest you go to a bus station in your town and wait for a Coaster to Timbuktoo, because they are as frequent as such matters of substance. What we have is a drawn out period of electioneering–exactly what was not needed.