What's good for the goose...
AS the Government prepares to update the nation tonight on the pending International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan agreement, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness has warned the Portia Simpson Miller-led Administration that it must prepare to sacrifice as much as it intends to ask of Jamaicans.
"For 50 years we have been asked to sacrifice, and again the people of Jamaica will be asked to sacrifice, but will the sacrifice ever yield any success?" asked Holness.
"If the people of Jamaica are going to be asked to sacrifice once again the Government must show good faith in that sacrifice. They must cut the size of their Cabinet," he said. "They are asking for wage freezes, they must take a salary cut themselves. They must show signs that they are being frugal and participating in the sacrifice," he said.
"Now is the time that, if you are going to call for the cooperation of the sectors of the society, then you must, symbolically, at least show that you too bear the sacrifice," he continued, adding that the nation's poor must be protected at all costs.
He was speaking yesterday at the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) press conference held at the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies in St Andrew following the party's standing committee seminar. The Opposition leader said that the seminar was used to examine matters affecting the country, and to strengthen the JLP's political leadership through introspection.
Holness said that the governing People's National Party (PNP) has underperformed since assuming the reins of the country a year ago, and that without proper leadership, whatever sacrifices asked of Jamaicans will go to naught. He added that Government has been dragging its feet for too long on the negotiations with the IMF, and the delay has cost Jamaicans dearly.
"The country is in a great state of uncertainty, and that uncertainty has damaged not only consumer confidence, but business confidence, and we are seeing the results of that in the recent outturn of figures related to unemployment," he said, commenting that the PNP has failed to honour its promise to create more jobs.
To make matters worse, he said: "They have sought to make their platform now one of distraction, one of blame," he said. "Blame the Opposition, blame the leader of the Opposition, blame outside forces, but they (PNP) take no responsibility for the current state of affairs of this country."
Holness described tonight's joint national broadcast as unusual, but said it is the Government's prerogative how they relay the information to the public.
Deputy leader of the JLP, Audley Shaw, responding to questions about what the PNP needs to disclose to the nation tonight, offered: "The people of the country need to hear from the Government about the state of the economy... What the Government will have to address tomorrow (tonight), after 13 months, is what have we seen?" he said.
"We have seen the Net International Reserves decline, cut in half to US$1 billion. It is now below the standard benchmark rate of 13 weeks of imports; it's now at 11 weeks of imports, so it's going in the wrong direction. It has broken the psychological barrier which tends to trigger more uncertainty and higher levels of obtaining foreign exchange," said Shaw.
Shaw said the Government has a duty to report to the nation precisely the state of the IMF agreement tonight, and how it intends to meet the requirements if an IMF facility is granted.