Madam PM should listen to people like Sagicor's Phillip Armstrong

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

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The pessimists and cynics will say one is clutching at straws, but we get a good feeling from the optimism expressed by Sagicor's Phillip Armstrong about the future of Jamaica.

What is probably more important is that we don't get the sense that Mr Armstrong is just saying something that is politically correct, but that he is saying what he means and meaning what he says.

Mr Armstrong, the managing director of Sagicor Bank, believes that the sacrifices being made by Jamaicans now will put the country on the path to economic recovery, and he was only sorry that the country waited until now, when the economy reached tipping point, "to start doing what is necessary to recover".

Sharing his overview of the economy at the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, he was refreshingly frank: "I don't think we have a choice but to do the right thing today, otherwise we are in deep, deep trouble, and that's what makes me more optimistic about the future...I am optimistic that the economy will recover, notwithstanding that successive governments have failed to meet their objectives over many, many, many years. For the first time I think that we have in front of us (the scenario that) we have no choice."

He accepted that the country was going through tough times but was confident that the measures being implemented would lead to growth and recovery.

Truth be told, optimism is one of the rarest commodities around today. And there is good reason for it. The indicators that should be pointing south are actually pointing north: crime is up; joblessness is up, inflation is up, the US dollaris up against the Jamaican dollar, etc.

Yet without hope a people perish.

It is just when things seem at their worst that Jamaicans have always been able to dig deep into our reservoir of resilience to pull our country back from the edge. Our leaders at all levels need to drink from this well and help to inspire hope in our people, instead of glorifying the negatives.

To borrow an apt quote from late Prime Minister Michael Manley: "When all seems lost, act."

Acting means that we first accept that our future is in our own hands and is not dependent on external sources such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank or the big international lenders. They are to be seen only as essential partners.

Acting also means that we can no longer look to the Government to be the sole leaders in economic development, especially in job creation initiatives. The Government must be expected to lay the foundation for sustainable growth by creating a business-friendly environment. But it is the private sector which must be the indisputable engine of growth. We hope that the budget speech by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller would have been crystal clear on this issue.

if we have any advice for Madam PM, it is that she should endeavour to listen more to people like Mr Phillip Armstrong and less to the incurable cynics who are always only waiting to turn off the lights as they leave Jamaica.




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