PM, hand over the reins if you can't hack it

Thursday, September 20, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

Along with many other Jamaicans, I very much looked forward to the PM's speech at the PNP Annual Conference last Sunday. Finally, we would get some indication of what she was thinking on the way forward for Jamaica. I am very nervous about what I see around me daily. The country seems stuck, and everyone seems to be waiting for something to happen. Something to move us out of this rut we're in.

But, as Mrs Simpson Miller's speech came and went, I realise now that her concerns are along party lines. In what many hoped would be an address to the nation (in the absence of a formal one), the PM instead lauded the achievements of the PNP in beating the JLP twice, and gave profuse thanks and recognition to the party faithful.

Meanwhile, the rest of us Jamaicans are left looking at the windows, hoping for some scraps of information and motivation to be thrown our way. It is becoming clear that it is party first, then country. Mrs Simpson Miller sought to bring hope to the PNP, but not the country.

The mindset and focus of the PNP government is coming to the fore.

How can it be that a minister of government, asked to account for a £1 million expenditure, cannot stipulate his own projections for the return on the "investment"? How can a typically eloquent minister of information dismiss citizens' concerns about this travesty as quibbling about a little money? At the very least, I would hope that our government, elected to see to our national affairs, would even pretend to give a damn.

Surely, the boss of these ministers should be able to describe succinctly the plan for how this massive (by any standard) outflow of Jamaica's money would come back to benefit the citizens. How many deal proposals were prepared? In what sectors? Can we see the investment prospectuses? Who were the targeted investors? What were the projected returns? When would the people of Jamaica see tangible outcomes on the ground? How many potential jobs are being proposed?

If the boss - the prime minister - cannot clearly present this information to the country, then I believe a responsible Board of Directors, we Jamaicans, had better start asking some hard questions. The prime minister should be making it a point of duty to have frequent dialogue in the various media. Silence and isolation are not viable options for the leader of the country. Any country.

In any business, a chief executive must be able to present reports of the various areas of the firm for which he or she is responsible. That chief executive cannot simply refuse to answer the Board of Directors, instead referring their questions to the lower-level management. That borders on dereliction of duty.

We are largely an educated people, and are hungry for information on the rationale for government policies, etc. The present vacuum is untenable and maddening. Frankly, if the present chief executive is not up to the task of regularly communicating to the nation, she should hand over the reins to a more motivated and inspired individual.

In the PM's own words, "Time come."

Marlon Johnson





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