The long expected reshuffle of the Bruce Golding Cabinet has now occurred. The move has been praised in some quarters and condemned in others, but the overwhelming consensus from John Public seems to give the action a passing grade. The prime minister did not have a great deal of wiggle room. Those who were expecting a more radical shake-up so soon before the general elections are living in the Land of Oz.
The appointment of Dr Christopher Tufton to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce is an eminent one. When he was appointed to the ministry of agriculture his appointment seemed very unlikely. My mother-in-law who knew him very well and was instrumental in his early childhood education felt that it was a wasted appointment and that he was suited to a better appointment than the "dirty" assignment of agriculture suggested. From the beginning I held a different opinion, believing that given his training in management and marketing he would bring a paradigm shift to how agriculture and food security are viewed in Jamaica. Many Jamaicans believe that he was good for agriculture and that his reassignment is a loss to that sector.
But what might be perceived as a loss to agriculture is certainly a gain for industry and commerce. He can only but transfer the skills that he has honed in that ministry to this new challenge and quite a number of Jamaicans are convinced that he will. His work is cut out for him at the ministry for although his predecessor, Mr Karl Samuda, left a platform on which to stand, there are critical challenges that the ministry presents in moving Jamaica forward. To begin with, Dr Tufton will have to confront the strangulating bureaucracy that has been a bane to production and economic growth in Jamaica. Everything must be done to remove the impediments to the growth of new businesses and to enhance the entrepreneurial spirit of the Jamaican people. There must be a greater integration of the ministry with other critical sectors of the economy such as tourism, energy and agriculture in the pursuit of further industrialisation, commerce, employment and economic growth in general.
It might have been this perception that motivated the prime minister to send him to this ministry. He has the requisite training to do the job and he has the hard, practical experience gained from agriculture to buttress his efforts. It is not going to be an easy task, but we can expect the new minister to take on his new assignment with the energy, enthusiasm, fixity of purpose and determination that we have come to know and now expect of him. I wish him well in this new challenge.
Short memories and impatient expectations
Recent polls have indicated that a majority of Jamaicans believe that the PNP in office were better managers of the economy than the JLP has been thus far. I was not too surprised at this finding because while it bears no relation to the truth, it nevertheless captures the kind of pain that many have experienced and are still experiencing since the genesis of the global economic crisis in 2008. It confirmed a view that I have held for some time that pain is always a present reality and that political leaders who have power over people's lives at a given time are especially regarded with scorn or ridicule for not doing something about that pain. In one sense I believe that President Obama is experiencing this in America right now. How soon have people forgotten how much they hated the Bush administration for bringing the American economy to its knees and its paltry attempt to rescue it under the Troubled Assets Relief Programme (TARP)? If you listen to some people talk, you would think that Mr. Obama has been president for the past 12 years.
People are angry because too many are unemployed, too many have lost their homes and the future looks bleak. The situation is no different in Jamaica. Many are unemployed and life for a significant number is very brutish. But to assign blame for their economic plight to four years of work under the JLP is to forget the almost 19 years of net negative growth under the PNP. It is to forget the reckless adventurism that resulted in the meltdown of the financial sector in the 1990s, the colossal loss of businesses and even lives, and the fiscal imprudence that left the country to hug a gargantuan debt that will take generations to come to wipe out, if ever. The present pain of the Jamaican people is understandable, but what cannot be accepted are conclusions that fail to reckon with the truth. Without the country being firmly rooted in the truth the likelihood of repeating history's mistakes looms large. It is good to have expectations of a better life for one and one's family, but expectations must be grounded in reality and reality has to be grounded in the truth. We must temper impatience with sound reasoning.