Holness outlines the JLP's philosophy

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive Editor -- Publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 29, 2015

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YOU can't help but notice the fluency with which Andrew Holness articulates the philosophy of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Probably it's because, as he puts it, he's had to explain, many times, the principles around which the Opposition party coalesces.

Or, it could be the fact that his more than 20 years in the party have ensured that the ideology is firmly cemented in his mind.

Even better yet, it could be a combination of both.

What is certain, though, is that Holness, the JLP and Opposition leader, is very clear that his party sees its role as making life better for Jamaicans.

The philosophy, he told the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange last week, can't be condensed into one word. It's broken down into a number of core principles.

"The JLP is a fiscal- conservative party, but on social issues we believe in a kind of activism," he started.

"We believe that we must increase access to the things that remove poverty from our land. The JLP believes in ending poverty in Jamaica."

He listed health, education, and national security as key to removing poverty, "particularly education as the vehicle of social mobility, health as the vehicle of productivity, and national security as the environment in which everybody can live under the rule of law".

The second core principle, he said, is a society in which everyone has the opportunity to fulfil themselves.

"We want people to be happy, and happiness comes through fulfilment and the pursuit of your dreams and goals. So that means, for us, that the environment is competitive; so we believe in competition for business. We believe in a free market as the ultimate example of competition, but we also recognise that free markets do need regulation sometimes, because some markets fail in the provision of public goods," he said.

"So, for the JLP, government's role is to stand in where markets generally fail or are likely to fail. So we believe in a more effective and extensive private sector, and we stand in the breach, if markets fail, to protect the interest of people.

"We're not a socialist party, but we're a social activist party, because for us, given our history, we have a greater need to correct the unequal endowments that we inherited as a people coming out of slavery and colonialism.

"So we have to invest heavily in education, health and national security.

"We believe as well that there is no success without sacrifice, there's no wealth without work," Holness said, before moving effortlessly to the burning issue of taxes.

"We hold firmly to the view that there should be no taxation without representation. So government must be effective. If people are going to be called upon to pay taxes, then the government must be effective and efficient in the way that it uses the public's resources," he said.

"More taxes does not mean better government. More taxes does not mean that the country will grow, so our principle is that we will be the party to seek to reduce your taxes to give you back more of your money so you can determine what to do with it," the JLP leader said.

"We believe in prosperity; we're not ashamed of it. Profit is a good word for the Jamaica Labour Party. We believe people must make as much money as they can. Yes, the Jamaica Labour Party is a capitalist party, and we believe in the use of capital for the benefit of the entire population," Holness said, his voice firm.

"We believe that growth can only be accomplished by a strong partnership between the private sector and labour," he added. "Indeed, the history of the Jamaica Labour Party is that we have been built on that. We have been a union that has managed to bring on board capital, and once you can form a platform where labour and capital can work towards prosperity, then you're 90 per cent there for success."

Again, without hesitation, Holness moved to another of the core principles. "We believe," he said, "that every Jamaican should be able to afford the important things in life that help them to fulfil themselves. In a place where everybody calls home, every Jamaican should be able to afford a house; shelter is a fundamental belief of the Jamaica Labour Party."

He pointed out that when the JLP last formed the Government -- 2007 to 2011 -- several housing schemes were built. "We believe in the development of the infrastructure of the country. I think in this regard we don't claim any exceptionalism. We have contributed as much to the building of infrastructure, if not more, and we have some very visionary projects which are led by Mike [Henry], including Vernam Field."

Henry, who was the transport and works minister during the last JLP Administration, has long championed the development of Vernam Field in Clarendon as one arm of his proposed multi-modal transport centres serving a logistics hub. The idea has been embraced by the present People's National Party (PNP) Government.

"We are also institution builders," Holness continued. "So if you look at the work of the JLP versus the work of the PNP, the JLP has built, I would say, more than 70 per cent of the institutions that make Jamaica what it is, including the institution of our Independence, which has created Brand Jamaica.

"It is the JLP who took that bold decision to be independent, and we continue to hold that position which informs that our final court must be a local appellate court," he said.

But institutions, Holness argued, don't last forever, therefore they need to be reviewed "from time to time". As such, he said that after 50 years of Independence, it is time for the country to review some of its institutions.

"Some of them have reached their sunset, and this is something I have said over and over. Some of the institutions that claim on our public resources and our budget are not really contributing to the national project. They are just there, but they need to be re-tasked and given a new mission," he insisted.

The JLP, he said, sees Jamaica as a leader in the world. "We believe that our strategic interests lie in the northern Caribbean. That is where our foreign policy is going to be. We don't believe that we should maintain foreign policy as it is. We believe we must use our foreign policy to spur economic growth, to branch out and form new alliances. Where we are, at 2.8 million in terms of population and the size of our country, we need to have greater markets in order for us to grow. We need to invest in our human capital to grow and not necessarily to simply export our human capital, but to use the human capital to create the opportunities.

"Jamaica, being the centre, can be the hub. We see it differently from being a logistics hub, but as the centre of innovation, centre of creativity, centre of where Spanish-speaking and English-speaking [nations] can meet, the centre of trade, the centre of commerce, the centre of lifestyle and culture, so that is the hub of which we speak."

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