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Shaw back as Opposition spokesman on finance

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 29, 2014    

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FORMER Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw, resumed his front bench seat in the House of Representatives yesterday as the Opposition's spokesman on Finance and Planning.

Shaw was quick to take the challenge to Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips, as he responded to a statement from the minister outlining the performance of the economy so far this fiscal year, and forecasting for the next two months.

Shaw said that he did not wish to pour cold water on the Government's successes in passing the first two of some 16 quarterly tests under the Extended Fund Facility agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but warned of more serious challenges down the road.

"The issue, Mr Speaker, is that as you pass IMF tests, there is a bigger test that has to be passed: It is the test of investment; it is the test of economic growth; and it is the test of job creation, because that is the ultimate test that makes any sense to the people of Jamaica," Shaw said, showing signs of his familiar aggressive nature.

But, Dr Phillips also showed good form, as he welcomed back the Opposition spokesman to his usual seat.

"I expect that congratulations are in order for the return of the Opposition spokesman on finance, but history will determine whether in his sojourn elsewhere, he underwent any transformation," Phillips said when his time came to respond.

Phillips said that the debate on the supplementary estimates, which are to be tabled on February 25, will provide an opportunity for "the spokesman and the would-be-spokesman to participate".

Within days after defeating Shaw's challenge to his leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) last November Holness named a shadow cabinet, which included Shaw as spokesman on finance and planning. However, Shaw refused to take up the position, demanding more roles for people who had supported him in his leadership bid, including Dr Christopher Tufton, the former spokesman on foreign affairs and foreign trade.

However, discussions had been continuing between the two for Shaw to resume as finance spokesman and chairman of the House's Public Accounts Committee.

While the discussions dragged on over the past two months, Holness filled in as the Opposition's spokesman on finance.

In an ensuing press release yesterday, the JLP said that Shaw's return to the front bench was "nothing surprising".

"Mr Shaw has the experience and knowledge necessary to manage such an important portfolio. The entire shadow cabinet welcomes him back and we anticipate his thoughtful and important contributions to issues affecting the nation," the release stated.

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