JUST over a year into the Portia Simpson Miller-led People's National Party's tenure in office, the country's opposition leader says he is convinced that the governing party is promoting a "politics of poverty" that is stifling Jamaica's growth and development.
Andrew Holness's comment comes in the wake of what he cited as worsening economic conditions, due mainly to poor management by the People's National Party (PNP).
The opposition leader, who was unseated by the PNP in the December 2011 general elections, still believes that a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration is better for the country, as only a JLP Government is committed to eradicating the dependency syndrome, which helps to keep a significant segment of the population in poverty.
Addressing the Jamaica Observer Press Club last week, Holness argued that the PNP has mastered the craft of maintaining political power, and has done this by promoting what he calls the 'eat a food' mentality in which only a small minority, comprising both poor and wealthy individuals, benefits from State resources, at the expense of the majority who, according to him, have become disillusioned with the political process.
"The Government was elected by under 25 per cent of the total electorate. All the Government has to do is cater to 25 per cent. If the Government is skilled at distribution — which defines this Government — then all they have to do is make sure that they keep that 25 per cent satisfied as that 25 per cent will always vote," said Holness as he asserted that the PNP has been able to capitalise on the culture of dependency.
"The political culture does not challenge those tendencies and we are caught in the politics of poverty. It is such a dangerous cycle that the politicians have fed into and created this dependency cycle that they dare not break, otherwise they never get elected. It has reached such a point that the democracy is not determined by the majority," said Holness as he drew reference to the low voter turnout in the last general elections, which gave the PNP a landslide victory.
The Opposition leader is convinced that his party is best positioned to promote the necessary cultural change through strong leadership. "The first thing you need is leadership, you need someone who is able to communicate to the people of the country that our present behaviour does not support development and growth. You need leadership that people can trust. Is the leadership saying we [are] going to turn a blind eye, we [are] going to allow you to import a little thing on the wharf. The infrastructure of the country might fall into ruin but yea man, a few people going to eat a food. If that's leadership and if that's what the people want, that's what they have now," said Holness in reference to the Simpson Miller Administration.
He maintains that the JLP is the party that can provide the leadership that Jamaica needs. "I have a duty and an obligation to all those other people, many of whom didn't vote, to say to them we are still reaching out to you, we want you to come on board. We are the party that will challenge those aspects of our culture that are antithetical to growth. We are the party that will seek to engage the population in dialogue to bring them to the understanding that there is a better way for Jamaica," said Holness as he pointed to the strong leadership that was exhibited by former leader of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew as he transformed that country from an underdeveloped country to a first world country.
"In Lee Kuan Yew was a leader, someone who was determined to bring his country out of the backwaters of underdevelopment. He literally had to challenge the existing cultural and psychosocial ethos and thinking of the people. He had to have a steady hand in pushing the country forward. Jamaicans have some tendencies that are not in support of growth and development and the political culture plays into that," Holness argued.