The PNP agenda and the case of two constituencies

The PNP agenda and the case of two constituencies


Sunday, January 26, 2020

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With monstrous pillage of the public purse coming fast, our dollar dying, and the morning news littered with stories of blood of the gunman's murder of a potential witness or an innocent child, an abused old lady or some hapless soul, too many Comrades believe their party is ready for the battle ahead, but it is not.

In case they forget the communication errors of 2016, it would be instructive to note the distortion powers of PR in the recent Nationwide/Bluedot polls, which rank marketing maestro Chris Tufton as the best performing minister, despite the thousand tragedies wrought by his health ministry.

Incredibly also, the polls found solid performers “Babsy” Grange, Ed Bartlett, Delroy Chuck and Nigel Clarke trailing badly, and surprisingly at the bottom is the hard-working Audley Shaw, who has nurtured the manufacturing sector back to four consecutive years of growth as industry and agriculture minister.

Poverty now rising, the promised prosperity postponed, inequality stratified, corruption multiplying and Andrew's 2016 open-windows crime-free pledge now a dream or a death wish, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) with options limited, is busy preparing another deceptive all-out PR assault on the integrity of the voters.

Notwithstanding the JLP's long corridor of omissions, a People's National Party (PNP) victory will not come in a vacuum or by default, without articulating clear game-changing plans. Time will be needed to absorb the new path, fire the imagination and concretise a swing to the party. Further delay in presenting the programme cannot be justified by the fear of JLP adoption; once the PNP conceives it, the JLP must not be allowed to own it.

The Comrades should be aware too, that Andrew Holness will be formidable. Unlike the PNP leader, his popularity is ahead of his party, he will seek to make the election a referendum on his personal leadership. Despite the perverse plunder of Petrojam and Caribbean Maritime University, his response will be clear; 'Look at me, not the JLP', with the removal of the offending ministers offered as proof of his zero-tolerance approach. He will then pivot to his completion of massive infrastructure works unwisely left by the PNP; explain the lack of economic growth, cite Bartlett's somewhat inflated tourism statistics and reluctantly announce 'achievements' in health taken from Tufton's expertly prepared script. Masking the skyrocketing murder rate, he will urge patience with the ineffective state of emergency (SOE) and zones of special operations which the children call “soldiers and police under tent” and the younger ones add in complete innocence, “two a dem sleep all de while”.

Inevitably, he will go to his fall-back position land and housing. Very few PNP candidates have noticed the monthly declarations of Crown lands under the Housing Act in almost every critical constituency, which deliberately points to housing for swing voters. Even fewer on Peter's team are aware of the JLP's 2017-2019 delivery of thousands of PRIDE titles left at Housing Agency of Jamaica in 2016. More potent will be Andrew's roll out of projects like Shooter's Hill and Bernard Lodge New Town. With many Jamaicans hopeful for secure tenure, Andrew will rest his case. Interestingly however, it is on this score and crime reduction that Peter must pounce to win the prize.

Security and crime

With the joint Vale Royal talks yielding nothing new, shadow minister Fitz Jackson must show track record and vision in separating his party's policy from the JLP's failed offering. That separation should speak to Operation King Fish, which smashed the powerful Colombian and Jamaican cartels' cocaine ring that would have rendered today's destructive murder rate child's play; the anti-gang legislation and the cutting-edge potential of Major Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Agency, utilising DNA, cyber and drone technology to enhance our interception, prevention and conviction capacity.

He should go further. He should present an upgraded rehabilitation path involving skill training, mandated job placement, follow-up counselling and earned expungement of records for ex-convicts and repeat offenders responsible for 85 per cent of all violent crimes. Blended in this should be emphasis on STEM training, gentrification, public capitalisation and incentivised private investment in our inner-cities, to not only unleash the potential of thousands of youth vulnerable to gang enticements but who, importantly, offer definite answers to stymied economic growth. He should tell us of new DNA-driven sentencing legislation on capital punishment or life imprisonment without parole for rape and murder of children, other vicious murders and a special task force to end scamming, extortion and contract killings.

Land and housing

Here again, history and track record separate the PNP from the JLP's meagre performance. Starting with former Housing Minister Anthony Spaulding's 40,000 units and PJ Patterson's over 30,000 PRIDE solutions, the PNP's performance is unassailable. Its policy must be elevated above the JLP's financially untenable, National Housing Trust-burdened formal housing approach. Given our fiscal challenges, Government funding will be totally insufficient to treat with the mushrooming squatting islandwide. We should return to providing a mix of National Environment and Planning Agency-approved developed lots with shelter designs, starter units and completed houses, allowing for incremental development by beneficiaries. That is how successful developments like the Pines of Karachi and 75 others created a major dent in the housing demand.

In addition, the PNP should reintroduce its policy of prioritising first-time landowners and public sector quotas for thousands of underpaid policemen, nurses, teachers, young doctors and civil servants. Missing also from the JLP agenda is a transparent selection mechanism such as the apolitical national ratification committee model applied under Operation PRIDE. To this end, the PNP must demand answers regarding the allottee selection methodology for the JLP's housing programme. Additionally, with 45,000 Government-owned lots still available, Peter should be ready to announce a viable parish schedule of shelter projects to be developed under a new PNP Administration, to end landlessness and squatting once and for all. East St Andrew, a swing seat, provides such a blueprint and perhaps a critical path to the PNP's victory in 2020.

St Andrew Eastern

There is no greater realisation of self-dignity and economic security than the ownership of land and shelter. As with its monumental housing record in Portmore, it is therefore baffling that the PNP has not capitalised on its tremendous shelter record in St Andrew Eastern. Mona Heights built during Norman Manley's tenure for 2 along with the projects below make the point.

Location Type Sale Price $ Year Avg. Present Value $M

Barbican Terrace T/houses 14,500 1976 20.0

Blue Castle Close “ 6,500 1977 25.0

Mona Commons “ 19,500 1977 22.0

Wellington Glades “ 300,000 1990 35.0

College Green “ 4,000,000 1993 30.0

Gerbera Dr/Daisy Ave Mona 4,000,000 1994 28.0

Pines of Karachi

Developed lots 526,000-1,200,000 1998 20-25.0

Pines of Karachi T/houses 2,600,000 1999 35.0

Wellington Heights

Developed lots 1,200,000 2001 30.0

Long Mt Country Club

T/houses and detached units 4,000,000 -7,000,000 2002 35-50.0

Goldsmith Villas Developed lots 100,000 2002 2.5

African Gardens “ 100,000 2002 2.0

Notwithstanding the JLP recording only the solitary Elletson Flats project under its watch, MP Fayval Williams will not be easily beaten. But the PNP's shelter performance is profound. Standard bearer Veneisha Phillips should lift her game and present the PNP's powerful case to change more lives and thereby retake this seat once more.

St Andrew West Rural

Beyond mindless gossip and misinformation, the PNP's candidate, the articulate Krystal Tomlinson should reap success in this constituency, building on the published 147 solid achievements my team completed in less than 48 months of the PNP's 2011-2016 Administration. With the current MP concentrating on her abortion agenda over the last four years, socioeconomic deliverables have been virtually non-existent. The sad case of coffee farming makes the point. Having lifted coffee prices from $3,000 per box in 2011 to $15,000, we note with alarm the price reversion to $3,000 since 2016, leading to devastated farms, financial ruin and the virtual death of the industry.

Again, surmounting the JLP's JADIP irregularities of 2011, among our major advances were dozens of roads, three bridges, two new schools (Red Hills Primary and Cushnie Road Basic); the reaccreditation and reopening of primary schools: Bowden Hill, Essex Hall and Padmore which came second in the 2019 PEP exams; the new Stony Hill water supply; the Red Hills to Waugh Hill Highway; the Florence Hill Bypass; two new health centres and most importantly, the unparalleled establishment of five IT training centres, accommodating 146 participants receiving stipends of $22,000 monthly. These centres now unpardonably closed in a STEM world, will be reopened by a victorious, forward-thinking Krystal, who will also revive coffee production as the economic backbone of the constituency.

Despite our impressive performance in a Labour stronghold, the voters fell to the JLP's highly financed 2016 campaign and surreptitious promises including the unkept doubling of the minimum wage, even as I recorded 98 per cent of my 2011 votes in a seven per cent swing against the PNP. But St Andrew West Rural and Jamaica in 2020 is different from 2016. A now more sober, chastened nation has paid dearly and can no longer respond to PR over substance.

Dr Peter Phillips has the track record and sense of history to seize the moment, which thus far has not come. It is getting late; to regain State power, he must present a convincing plan to create real economic growth and dramatically reduce criminality in our bloodstained land. He dare not fail, if he does, unvarnished history will be very unkind.

Paul Buchanan is a member of the PNP and former Member of Parliament for St Andrew West Rural

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