Columns

Good, Mr Holness, but can you also make pigs fly?

Mark Wignall

Thursday, May 01, 2014    

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WHILE there is still some open evidence that the prime minister is poorly briefed on day-to-day matters of governance, or her advisors are afraid to approach her with well-honed talking points, she was certainly on target when she told us in her recent Budget presentation: "No matter what anyone wants to say, I am prime minister for all Jamaicans."

Thank you for that profound reminder, PM. She hit the nail even more firmly on the head when she said that Jamaicans are asking, "How much more can we sacrifice?" Thanks for arriving on the tarmac and touching down on the grim, earthy reality, prime minister.

Just before that, former PM Bruce Golding, freed from the shackles of representational politics and leadership, drove home a more telling truth when he told a gathering that Jamaica would be experiencing "recession-like" economic conditions for some time to come. From where I sit, there is nothing happening now that tells me that there will be any change to our economic condition over the next five years. It will be more of the same, if not worse.

Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness, however, lives in a fifth dimension. It is, of course, the 'duty' of any Opposition party to make governance as difficult as possible for the party in power. Not that the PNP needs any help with that, considering that only a handful of ministers are actually contributing anything worthwhile to governance and forward-planning and, the prime minister displays almost open indifference to their non-performance.

Obviously bruised by previous criticisms of him being too laid back, after the JLP's internal election he has gone off the rails in wanting to be considered all-inclusive and relevant. What has resulted is a constant stream of press releases to the point of overkill; many of which I simply delete and demote to trash.

As if to better the best that could come from his mouth, at a recent constituency conference in North Clarendon he upped the ante and painted a vision that was not only fanciful considering our resources and our history at getting anything right, but it bordered on just empty talk, the sort of talk that only infects the minds of those who are totally freed from actual governance.

Harking from when he was education minister -- a reasonably good one I thought -- he said: "I wanted to ensure that all our children are able to read, write, comprehend and communicate. I want another chance to advance that aim; to take our students and make sure they are work-ready, skilled, and able to go on to further education. We are going to launch a revolution in developing our people. The JLP is going to start the human development revolution in the country."

Yes, that's right, 52 years after Independence, another political leader, who is being paid by taxpayers, is promising us something that his mentor of years ago -- Eddie Seaga -- would understand as useless, because he would always remind the nation of the reality that, "It takes cash to care".

Minister of Finance Peter Phillips is so taken up with the burdensome and thankless task of delicately placing the fiscal ducks in a row that he can scarcely provide any room for any of his Cabinet colleagues to draft a growth path, even if they were so inclined. But, somehow, through all of this reality that is staring us in the face, the Opposition leader is spouting the grand nonsense about a 'human development revolution' in the country.

Granted, it was all stated at a political conference, where empty promises are never in short supply; but it was about in the same league as him disingenuously reminding those listening to him that, like them, he too had been living in tough times since his adolescence. Holness, many of those listening to you would immediately switch their tough times with yours.

Should some political miracle occur, and the present unpopularity of the PNP lasts until the next elections, Holness knows that we are still likely to be in the cold grip of an IMF regime. Just as how the much-touted Vision 2030 has long become a faded dream, Holness knows that his human development revolution, as a promise, is merely the words of a politician seeking power.

Another part of the press release, 'JLP will deliver Human Development Revolution -- Holness', stated, "He said the Government must carve a space for people to plan a future not anchored on sweet-mouth promises but solid plans."

Short of promising that he would make pigs fly, Holness is playing the same game that the PNP played on the nation just before the last election; when Simpson Miller promised that an IMF deal would be sealed two weeks after taking power, and the PNP's advertising during the election campaign was all about the 'nice times' that would 'come back again' should the PNP win.

PNP and JLP in Opposition are all the same until they face the cold, hard reality of actual governance. To the PNP Government's credit, it knows, in 2014, that it has no wiggle room to make any fancy promises. The prime minister spoke about over 20,000 jobs, but I think by now the people have grown punch-drunk on these JEEP offerings, and they know which part of the dustbin to place such empty talk -- at the bottom, the top and in the middle.

And, in any event, more of our people are seeing the prime minister as just another frequent visitor to Jamaica, so her knowledge of their reality is that of a tourist who has the luxury of falling in love with a country that they don't have to live in.

One would have hoped that, as the PNP dream fades, the Opposition leader would have outlined his vision of how the people of this country could have fared better while taking the 'bitter medicine' which he foresaw in 2011. Then he could have painted a realistic picture of the development objectives that were available and the methods by which a government formed by him could sell that to the people and get them on board.

To give us big promises with big words is to fill our guts with gas and our minds with the emptiness that we have seen before. If at the next elections the people decide to vote JLP it will be just the same as when the people left the JLP in 2011 and sided with the PNP.

If Holness is now promising us in his human development revolution that pigs can fly, the PNP has long proved that the promise of 'nice times' to come back again means we can now take our chicken back to the gates of those Spanish north coast resorts that are regularly visited by government ministers on weekends.

observemark@gmail.com

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