Politicians must resist cheap opportunism

Monday, May 05, 2014    

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THIS newspaper notes the assertion by Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) MPs that they are getting text messages from their constituents threatening suicide because of hard times.

For us, the fact that MPs on the Government side say they have not received such messages is immaterial.

As Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson points out: "In tough times, it would not be unusual to have persons experiencing suicidal tendencies..."

Thoughts of suicide invariably reflect utter desperation and hopelessness. The mental health experts will quickly point out such thoughts do not always reflect socio-economic deprivation.

But very often they do.

That hopelessness, driven by socio-economic factors, is exactly what this newspaper referenced in this space a week ago when we said "people can't be left in utter despair and without hope".

And further, that "the poorest, unemployed and most vulnerable must be made to feel that society cares and is acting in their interest".

Miss Olivia 'Babsy' Grange says part of her response to such desperation is to encourage people to "get rid of this Government and put in a Jamaica Labour Party Government that will ensure that things get better".

From a politician's point of view that sounds like good politics. However, our politicians need to appreciate that for a growing number of Jamaicans that's just annoying, useless, 'ole-time' politics.

The fact is that the Government and the entire country are locked into an economic structural adjustment programme that leaves little or no room for manoeuvre. It's a virtual straightjacket which all structured stakeholders -- including the political opposition -- accepted when the Government entered an Extended Fund arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) a year ago.

It's the "bitter medicine" which Mr Andrew Holness said was inevitable in the build-up to the 2012 election. Let's bear in mind that this was after an arrangement between the then JLP Government and the IMF -- which was also seen at the time as totally necessary to salvage the Jamaican economy -- had collapsed.

It seems to us, that even as the Opposition makes its case that it is able to do a superior job in government, it has a responsibility to tell people that there is no viable alternative to the current economic path.

Also, the Government must be held accountable to make sure that even as it does its best to pass IMF tests, the poor and most vulnerable will be protected as much as is humanly possible and are given realistic hope of economic growth down the road; and of better times to come.

As the people's loyal Opposition, the JLP must rigorously hold the Government to account on this score at all times. However, the temptation to water down their important role as the people's loyal Opposition with cheap and disingenuous political point-scoring should be rigorously resisted by the JLP.





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