The prime minister's admirable approach

Monday, November 19, 2018

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We dare to suggest that the speech by Jamaica's prime minister, Mr Andrew Holness, at the national conference of his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) at Independence Park yesterday will be remembered for the right reasons.

Many among the massive crowd of Labourites inside and outside of the National Arena no doubt expected their leader to indulge in grandstanding and opponent bashing so customary in Jamaican politics.

Instead, they heard a mature, statesmanlike presentation outlining the achievements of the JLP Administration since winning political power by a slender majority in early 2016, and offering a sense of their leader's vision of the future encompassing “prosperity” for the Jamaican people.

“Prosperity,” Mr Holness tells us, “is not the absence of poverty, but the presence of hope that you can come out of poverty.”

His was a speech which appeared to confirm a notion this newspaper has had for some time — that Jamaica, as a nation, is growing up and its leaders with it.

Increasingly, recognition is taking hold that most Jamaicans have no time for the divisive, tribalist approach of the past. Indeed, in today's rapidly changing technology-driven environment, the old politics is boring, meaningless.

It's not that Mr Holness didn't boast. He did — about all the economic indicators heading in the right direction, about the unprecedentedly low unemployment levels as measured by the appropriate agencies and the provision of “more jobs, more jobs”, about comprehensive training and employment programmes for young people, about the rapid growth in the provision of housing — but without being offensive.

And while crime remains a horrendous problem, Mr Holness could speak with pride that the evidence suggests greater control by the security forces and that criminals are in retreat.

This newspaper appreciated the prime minister's sensitivity in reaching out to the police in recognition of their difficulties on the front line and their “sacrifices” in a low-wage environment.

As crime declines, Mr Holness said, so the economy will grow; making it easier for the country to reward the police and other public servants in a manner closer to their true worth.

We appreciated his recognition that the decline of the national debt, from 141 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), five years ago, to less than 100 per cent today, is not for political point-scoring. Indeed, the economic achievements of this Government have been built on a platform established by their predecessors who signed a tough International Monetary Fund programme in 2013 and stuck with it.

We appreciated his commitment that the Government will stay focused on the debt-to-GDP target of 60 per cent and that his Government will remain frugal adding that “every single dollar” of taxpayers' money will be used properly and efficiently.

Perhaps the only weakness in Mr Holness's speech was his failure to address the worrying allegations of corruption assailing his Government in recent times. Perhaps he felt that before the “massive” of party supporters it wasn't necessary to go down that road. However, the rest of us were waiting. Those scandals, though, would have provided valuable lessons for Mr Holness and his Government that i's should be dotted and t's crossed and nothing should be left to chance. For, in politics, all can change in the twinkling of an eye.

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