Reject politicians who come with sugar in their mouths

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Reject politicians who come with sugar in their mouths

Raulson Nembhard

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

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One of the criticisms that I received with respect to my last column 'Behind Trump's desperate bid for a second term', published July 29, 2020, is that I am more concerned about what is happening in America than about the myriad problems that face Jamaicans. On the face of it, the answer to this concern is so obvious that it brooks no rebuttal or commentary. But since I am not in the habit of taking any viewpoint for granted, I must recognise it for what it is, as it brings to the fore the importance of the economic boondoggle that presently besets America and its consequential effects on Jamaica as a small developing State.

To begin with, it is estimated that close to two million members of Jamaica's Diaspora live in the United States. These Jamaicans are understandably concerned about what happens in their homeland to the extent that, pre-COVID-19, they were sending close to $2 billion in remittances to the country annually. This has been an economic lifeline for many Jamaicans and would have become even more so as the virus took its toll on the economic livelihood of most Jamaicans. Despite the pandemic and a remarkable turn for the worse in their own economic prospects, many Diasporans continue to shoulder on with their obligations as they know that their relatives back home really depend on this lifeline for bare survival.

Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that America is one of, if not the largest, trading partner for Jamaica. The country has been one of the most steadfast friends of Jamaica and the two countries have maintained over the years a cordial, respectable, and beneficial relationship. This is not a relationship that should be taken for granted, and it is certainly not one that should be above investigation and critique.

This writer has been one of the most persistent critics of the Donald Trump Administration because of the position of weakness to which he has brought a once proud and great nation. It has been said that once the world either admired or feared America, now it looks upon America with pity. Pity for the number of lives that have been needlessly lost to COVID-19; pity, because of the seeming helplessness of Americans, in the absence of federal leadership, to take control of the situation and thus staunch the bleeding of the economy.

On one level, Trump ought to be credited for bringing a greater awareness to many Americans of the consequential nature of the presidency and the importance of who is elected to occupy that high office. Those who think that such things should be ignored are living in the land of Oz. Contrary to what some believe, I criticise what is happening in America today, not because I hate Trump — I have previously cautioned about the trivial use of that word — but because of what I see America and world at large losing in this hour of great need. I look out on the horizon and can see the further carnage of the economic and social dislocations of the American way of life that a continued Trump presidency will cause. Not to mention its increasing loss of respectability in the world and, possibly, as some predict, the death of the American experiment.

As a Jamaican and a citizen of the world these are not things to which one can turn a blind eye. A weakened and anaemic American economy does not portend well for Jamaica. Right now, Jamaica's economic health is imperilled by the dramatic fallout in the American economy. It has just been revealed that in the second quarter the American economy suffered close to a 33 per cent decline in its gross domestic product (GDP) — the worst since the Second World War. A bad decline was expected, but nothing of this magnitude.

The Federal Reserve is doing its best to help the economy, but it is badly in need of fiscal support which can only come from the Congress. And the Congress, especially the Republican Senate, is in a state of what the illustrious Ezroy Millwood, of blessed memory, would call a state of “chronic”. Millions of Americans who need financial support as a result of the lockdown of the economy and its attendant hardships may find themselves unable to pay their bills and today live in fear of becoming homeless and penniless.

In the meantime, the coronavirus continues its elephant-like trek through the country. The basic proposition has to be that, without a robust containment of the virus, there can be no robust reopening of the economy and of economic growth. This simple fact is eluding the federal leadership of the country.

In light of this, Jamaica must not be too sanguine about its economic prospects, especially where tourism is concerned. The tourist industry will not bounce back as readily as we may think, even though we see it rightly as a lifeline to the economy. Our tourists come largely from America which, as we know, has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus.

If there should ever be a second wave at the start of the winter tourist season there may well be another lockdown of the economy in several states. The tourists will not come, and even if they want to airline flights and cruises will be severely curtailed. So, our economic planners must consider wisely any projections they make regarding the future prospects of the economy.

I want to believe that the Andrew Holness Administration is mindful of the economic exigencies of the moment and will carefully calibrate and recalibrate its thinking and policy implementation in light of these. There can be no sugar-coating of the realities we face, especially with an impending general election. This would be a dereliction of duty and a gross disservice to the people of Jamaica. Jamaicans must steadfastly reject any politician who comes to them with sugar in the mouth. What we need is carefully worked out and articulated strategies which fit neatly into the realities of the time.

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or stead6655@aol.com.


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