KEY private sector and civil society leaders expressed disappointment with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's address to the nation on Sunday evening, which they said failed to deal with important issues facing the nation, such as the sliding dollar and the lack of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Christopher Zacca said, while the prime minister's report of her Administration's first year in office showed that she had the nation's interest at heart, it failed to chart a way forward for the country.
"The prime minister addressed a number of achievements such as the reduction in crime, which is to be commended, but generally I don't think she fully addressed key issues facing the country such as the lack of an IMF agreement as well as how the Government can think outside the box and create real economic growth for the country going forward," Zacca told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
The PSOJ president said Simpson Miller has the ability to communicate major issues to the Jamaican people and said he wanted to see her do so more often.
"We need more outside-the-box thinking from her and her Government, because clearly we need a whole new paradigm in this country if we are to move the economy forward," Zacca said.
President of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) Brian Pengelley said Simpson Miller did not address the prior actions that are needed to seal an IMF deal.
"It was good for the prime minister to recap the achievements, but we need to focus on 2013 with some level of confidence that we have a strategy to grow this economy out of the issues that we face," Pengelley said.
"The JMA is asking if there is anything we can do to help, but before we can help we need to know what are the prior actions and the issues that the Government faces in getting this (IMF deal) done," he added.
President of the Jamaica Exporters' Association Andrew Collins said the prime minister gave "a measured and sober assessment of the state of the country", but also noted that she did not say much about the IMF deal and the sliding dollar.
"I am assuming that she is mindful of the ongoing discussions with the IMF, and would allow the minister of finance to make a more substantive comment about that in the very near future," he said
Chairperson of the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) Carol Narcisse said the prime minister's presentation "fell short of expectations to the extent that those expectations were to present an overarching vision and direction for the country".
She was also disappointed that no mention was made of the treatment and management of children in State care, which has seen "at least one successful suicide and three attempted suicides" in recent weeks.
Narcisse said Simpson Miller's presentation provided no new information about the state of the economy and no update about the contentious IMF negotiations.
"It's not enough to give us a list of activities that has been undertaken. Even where she outlined the infrastructure projects, it was noticeable the lack of comment about the several concerns that surround those projects and an indication to the public about Government's intention to respond to those concerns," Narcisse said.
"Small steps of improvement in visitor arrivals in tourism, a small reduction in crime and temporary and short-term employment under JEEP (the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme) — these are good things, but do not add up to a country on a sustainable development path."
The JCSC chair said she expected to hear from the prime minister how the Government intends to deal with the prior actions required by the IMF.
"One just doesn't know what the Government's intention is. Does the Government intend not to pursue these prior actions? If that is the case, someone needs to tell us. We need to have a clearer understanding of our capacity to write a budget for March. Should we be gearing ourselves up for a postponement of the budget?" Narcisse queried.