JLP Economic Advisory Council a good idea

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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IT is never too late for a good idea. The announcement by the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) that it has established an Economic Advisory Council is a good move, as the JLP urgently needs new thinking, and new thinking from any source is to be welcomed.

The council comprises investment banker Aubyn Hill, chairman; chartered financial analyst and consultant Fayval Williams, who was named the JLP's deputy spokesperson on finance and planning in April; investor and former president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Patrick Casserly; and researcher and survey specialist Colin Williams.

But even as we commend the JLP for this decision, it must first accept that new ideas will never be translated into new policies until the party renews its top leadership. Formulating new ideas with leaders who are septuagenarians and octogenarians is basically pouring new wine into old bottles. No Fortune 500 company is being managed by anyone in their seventies.

Readers should recall that the party's older heads — who are responsible for the JLP not completing a five-year term in office since 1989 — gave Mr Holness a bus to drive that was out of gas.

Second, an economic advisory council is not a guarantee of sound economic policy. Anyone who doubts that just needs to look at the People's National Party (PNP), which has had an Economic Commission since the early 1970s. It was instrumental in producing the Production Plan and the Non-IMF Path.

But Jamaica's economic performance under the PNP has been disappointing. However, this cannot be blamed only on the PNP's economic advisors. The blame must be shared by civil servants, the private sector and the International Monetary Fund, notwithstanding the global economic crisis and episodes of inclement weather.

Third, a four-person Economic Advisory Council is too small to be adequately representative of the various arms of the economic sector. It needs to be widened to perhaps 10 members to include people who will bring a working-class perspective and individuals knowledgeable about key sectors such agriculture, education, manufacturing, and investment.

In lieu of appropriate membership, the council must canvass ideas widely to inform its deliberations and recommendations.

We salute those who have sacrificed their neutrality to serve on this council, because in Jamaica's toxic partisan politics they will be branded as Labourites. They have made this sacrifice in what we expect is a noble effort to help their country.

They, we suspect, must have agreed to serve bearing in mind that any future contracts to them for services or appointments to posts and chairmanships of boards will be interpreted by a cynical public as political rewards.

We applaud Mr Holness, though, for not rounding up the usual suspects, and we hope the leadership of his party will take seriously the output of the Economic Advisory Council.




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