#COVID19Chronicles-133: August 25, 2020-What do the main parties stand for?

Election Day is September 3, and the first of three debates will be tonight.

You can keep track on a scorecard provided by the Jamaica Debates Commission:

I’d hoped to read at least part of both manifestos by now, but the JLP hasn’t got theirs ready, yet—due out this morning. (I could make the obvious point about how daft it seems that the party that had the election timing in its control couldn’t have its manifesto out first.)

Instead, we have the LalaLand Manifesto of the Jamaica Progressive Party. I’m being uncharacteristically harsh on that, because it was the tail of a damp squib of an election appearance, because the party pulled out days after issuing the manifesto. It was manifestly a non-flyer. It would not get on the manifest of an plane except to see Barnum and Bailey. They will be the butt of jokes for days, and deservedly for the many dreams of untold riches that were snatched from our grasps.

PNP has come out with a nifty ‘personal’ manifesto. It’s cool in that you don’t have to provide a real profile, so you can see how you’d fare, for instance, if you were a rich, transvestite with a family of four, and a herd of pangolin living in St. Elizabeth. There’s hope for all, in that sort of offering.

But, as we’re really talking about the political heavyweights, I’d like to have both JLP and PNP story books at the same time. I’d also have preferred if a bit more technological flair had been shown and I could have had the documents in audio file form, so that during the likely many days of being locked in, I have lots of material to listen to and dream the days away. So, let me hold off.

The thought that’s going through my mind is just a simple one: What does each party stand for? Once upon a time in my life, I had a clearer idea of different philosophies driving the parties and their policies. That was clearer to me from I could really think about these things in the 1970s through 1990s, and I had the clear social democratic dreams of Michael Manley to look at and a more capitalistic and business-oriented and US-focused stance of Edward Seaga.

Now, it’s a bit harder to describe in a substantive way. I asked my wife and she said ‘Prosperity; focus on growth’ versus ‘Cater to the people’s needs’. I’ll not hold her feet to the fire on this, but it tells me that the ideas are a bit squishy. Maybe, that allows for more chewing away at the middle ground of people’s desire for better lives shaping it is slightly different images.

More assuredly, after the current administration, the JLP can put itself forward as a party that is set on ‘getting things done’ and appearing to get them done quickly. One of the problems with the PNP’s cries that much of this is building, literally, on their plans, is that people wonder why the plans were languishing. Ideas that don’t materialize aren’t worth much.

The real meaning of support for each party is maybe quite basic for lots of people and it’s not about grand images that show a Jamaica in totality, but the state of a community, say, that looks different then than it does now. Hence, politicians’ focus on basic services, like water and roads. It’s embarrassing to the nation that water supply is still such a thorny issue across the country. The state of roads is, sadly, going to be an unwanted thorn to the administration, after Tropical Storm Laura lashed us this weekend and many roads—including the crispy ‘cyaapet’ are now in a flooded or washed away shambles.

The damage to the rural roads cement (no pun) a tale that is as old as most people, of roads that are just not fit for purpose.

The damage to newly constructed stretches tells us that little has changed: US$20 million spent and what? Many will smell a familiar rat when learning that new roads were built without drainage systems. ‘Tom drunk, but Tom is no fool.’ 😦

The most that any party can do in coming days is make more promises about the provision and the maintenance, but memories will be fresh of what those realities are.

I don’t want to keep harping on about the things that can turn a near ‘slam dunk’ election win into a ‘squeaky bum’ nail biter, but you’re seeing some of them with the impact of nature on the national ability to move. That’s one of the problems with any idea of delaying elections, as far as the government is concerned: more stuff can go wrong.

In this narrow, optic, then, it’s not going to do the government too much harm that the pandemic has forced its hand to tighten restrictions again, with effect from tomorrow.

While, it’s easy to see a cynical take to that, it’s also what people have been clamouring for as the infection numbers rise sharply. But, as cards get handed out to play in coming days, it’s going to be a nervous time seeing whether some of them are hard to play with a positive air or if they are just to be turned over with hope of drawing a better one. Nature is not a controllable beast and, during hurricane season… 🙂

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)