THE criticism that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has not been talking enough about national issues begs the question ‘what can she tell us that we don’t already know?’
To be fair, Mrs Simpson Miller has made it clear that her style is to allow her ministers and members of Parliament to speak on those issues which fall under their portfolios. She has gone further to say to her critics “Instead of talking, talking, talking, I prefer to be working, working, working”.
It is also true that many of her critics hold the belief that she is not a good speaker so one is not sure what they would get from hearing more speeches by her.
Those pressing Mrs Miller to talk more have mentioned the economy and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), crime and jobs. From our reports in the past two weeks, Dr Peter Phillips has spoken to the Parliament about the economy and the IMF; the prime minister has spoken on the 40,000-job scheme being pursued with the private sector and Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, the man best suited to do so, has spoken on crime.
Other than for exceptional circumstances, the position taken by the prime minister is correct. Ministers and their issue-specific spokespersons must regularly report to the country on their activities. More importantly, they should remain in touch with their stakeholders so that there is little opportunity for ignorance to thrive under their watch.
We are aware that, historically, the country has grown accustomed to prime ministers who are articulate and talk a lot. These include the late Mr Michael Manley who frequently took us on the wings of oratory, and latterly Mr Bruce Golding whose big strength was the gift of the gab.
But now we need to be weaned off the talkers and give prominence to the doers. Let’s examine if Mrs Simpson Miller is ‘working, working, working’ as she says, and let us see what impact is there from all this work.
Of course, we are also aware that there will be times when the captain of the ship must speak, when the circumstances demand reassurance in the face of uncertainty; when there must be no equivocation on a government position; and when there must be no obfuscation in the face of controversy and confusion.
In this vein, where we believe the prime minister and the Government could do better is in the Jamaica House press briefings which usually follow Cabinet meetings. This briefing is often put off, making it difficult for media houses to rely on its schedule.
Another tool of communication was Jamaica House Live which featured Mr Golding every last Wednesday of the month, except when he was unavoidably unavailable. Mrs Simpson Miller scrapped that without putting anything else in place to ensure the deepening of the information flow.
The Jamaica Information Service (JIS) is doing a decent job but its mandate is limited to government policies and programmes. It cannot and must not work for the ruling party. For its own information flow, the party must rely on its network of public relations services, party spokespersons and supporters with access to mass and social media.
Talk is cheap and action speaks louder than words. We recommend to our readers the advice from one of the best talkers himself, Mr Michael Manley: “When all seems lost, act!”