Phillips doing a good job — Blythe
SADDLED with the responsibility of implementing harsh economic measures as prescribed by the International Monetary Fund, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips is probably the most despised politician in Jamaica at this time.
But Phillips’ former Cabinet colleague, Dr Karl Blythe, is not among the finance minister’s detractors. In fact, Blythe — who in February 2006 contested the presidency of the ruling People’s National Party against Phillips, current Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and current Transport, Works and Housing Minister Dr Omar Davies — believes that Phillips is doing a good job, given the country’s circumstances.
“I would give Peter a seven out of 10, and to get that in these difficult times is a good grade,” Blythe told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview last Thursday.
“He has had the political will to take certain decisions that are affecting not only the little man, they are affecting everybody and he has found a way to slightly buffer those who would suffer most. I love that,” said Blythe, who served as water and housing minister when the Government was led by PJ Patterson.
Blythe pointed to the 0.2 per cent growth reported by the Government for the last fiscal year, suggesting that while it was small, it provided some amount of hope. Phillips, he said, has “taken certain decisions that others might not have.
“And even though the dollar is sliding, you don’t get this massive fall-off; the fall seems to be gradual. You get the idea that it might not go above J$120 [to US$1]”.
Blythe also expressed admiration for embattled Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell’s efforts to lower the cost of energy to the country.
“It is so significant to everybody in Jamaica, the whole productive sector; you cannot compete, especially with the electricity bills that you have to pay in Jamaica. I think he recognises that,” Blythe said. “Maybe he’s a little like me in that you know where you have to go and you want to get there and sometimes you step fast and persons may say ‘hey’, and pull you back,” Blythe added.
“But he knows the importance of this 381 megawatt plant to the country, and that is where he’s taking us. But without that, if the productive sector cannot kick back in and we become competitive, we’re going to have some serious hardships. We have to stop borrowing, we have to produce our way out,” Blythe said.
He also showered praise on Prime Minister Simpson Miller, saying that people don’t give her as much credit as she deserves.
“When she has the wisdom to put a Peter [Phillips] there, and a lot of these decisions have to go to Cabinet and she has to say ‘yes, take the hard steps’, they can’t say Peter doing well, but she not talking. The fact is, she speaks through Peter, and when we get a little growth, it is under the leadership of Portia,” Blythe said.