'Time hard and the dutty tough', but...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

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WE have a sense that the Government's version of JDX, being called the National Debt Exchange Offer, is a smart way to squeeze $17 billion annually out of the system, without sending the nation into panic. We will return to this tomorrow in this space.

But at the same, we also have the sense that Monday night's national broadcast by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, which announced the JDX 2, has to be followed soon by a deeper effort to mobilise the nation around resolving our debt issue and raising revenues.

The format of the announcement -- an unprecedented joint broadcast -- suggested that the Administration would be coming with radical solutions to our stubborn and protracted economic problems. We had expected something that would capture the imagination of a Jamaican populace tired of hearing pie-in-the-sky promises that are never more than that -- empty promises.

We believe that the Jamaican people, perhaps more than at any other time, are ready to tackle our economic difficulties in a realistic way, knowing that 'time hard and the dutty tough', but also that 'if we want good, we nose have to run'.

We have not yet, by any means, run out of radical solutions. For example, we have not yet explored the suggestion from some quarters that we abolish income tax in favour of a higher General Consumption Tax that would capture far more of the tax dodgers, while motivating Jamaicans to work harder and spend more with the additional income.

The lack of a real attempt to engage the nation in the process of rebuilding the economy is palpable, especially given that this is the political party which attempted the exciting, if poorly timed, National Emergency Production Plan in the late 1970s. A truly national thrust in getting ideas from all sectors and from people of all walks of life on how to earn our way forward is the best way to achieve national buy-in.

It may be appropriate now to target the financial institutions and bondholders, but how long can this be sustained before people start moving their funds overseas or wherever it is they believe they can get higher yields on their money?

The promise that this time round Jamaica will benefit from JDX 2, when that same promise was made before and did not materialise -- albeit we have a different Administration -- may just not be enough to motivate Jamaicans to rise to the challenge. Once bitten, twice shy.

Hard work is ahead of us. Jamaican governments have been much too lazy and have not always found the will to take on such hard work, hence the failure of even good ideas.

Mrs Simpson Miller and Dr Phillips have promised that things are going to be different. Do we need to remind them that the proof of the pudding is in the eating?




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