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JLP piling on the runs, PNP running around

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, August 27, 2017

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Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. — Lao Tzu

 

Some weeks ago I wrote, among other things, in this newspaper: “The Opposition does not want the Administration to put runs on the board. Simultaneously, the PNP (People's National Party) wants the Government to bat on a wicket where they are not only the opposing team, but also the standing and third umpires. They have not learned from the defeat of February 25, 2016.” ( Sunday Observer , July 2, 2017). The suspect cricketing actions of the PNP are now conspicuous, even to political ostriches.

The Andrew Holness-led Administration has put important runs on the board despite the concentrated efforts of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition to prevent it from scoring.

The PNP remains fixated with its twofold and moribund strategy. It continues to preach that gloom, doom, hellfire, damnation, and pestilence will befall Jamaica and her people because of the change in Administration 17 months ago. Second, any positive which the country is experiencing and/or might experience, is because of the policies and programmes of the previous Administration. This strategy is pinnacled on 'bad mind'. It has failed.

 

Runs on the board

Today more Jamaicans are employed than at any other period in Jamaica's history. Data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) shows that the number of people employed peaked at a historic 1,204,800 in April 2017 — 35,800 more than in April 2016. STATIN's data also showed that the unemployment rate fell by a further 1.5 per cent in April 2017 to 12.2 per cent relative to April 2016. These details in the Sunday Observer should warm the hearts of all well-thinking Jamaicans.

“State minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service Fayval Williams has welcomed the results of the Labour Force Survey conducted in April 2017, which showed that 35,800 more individuals were employed in April 2017 when compared with the similar period in April 2016.

“According to the survey, employment for both males and females increased for the review period.

“The unemployment rate also dropped to 12.2 per cent in April. Comparatively, unemployment stood at 13.7 per cent in April 2016.

“ 'Job growth is the ultimate test of an economy,' Minister Williams said.

“She continued: 'Taken against Jamaica's improved rankings in the Global Competitiveness Report, which now sees the country ranking as the 75th most competitive country in the world out of 138 countries versus a prior ranking of 86th, we can safely say we are positioned for even more growth.'

“The Labour Market Survey, conducted by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, also showed that there were 1,204,800 employed individuals in April 2017, representing an increase of 35,800 or 3.1 per cent when compared with the 1,169,000 recorded in April 2016.” ( Sunday Observer, August 13, 2017)

 

Forward...not backward

Dr Peter Phillips announced at his ascension to the presidency of the PNP that he would embrace Michael Manley-type socialism:

“The new president of the People's National Party Dr Peter Phillips has told Comrades that this generation of the organisation will have to fix and eliminate poverty.

“It is for that reason Phillips says he will not apologise for embracing democratic socialism, which he insists still has a place in developing 21st-century Jamaica.

“Phillips was speaking at the National Arena minutes after taking the oath of office as the fifth PNP president of the party.

“ 'I say without reservation that Michael Manley broke down the walls of plantation society once and for all in Jamaica.' ” ( Sunday Gleaner, March 26, 2017)

Phillips has not learned from a tragic mistake of Michael Manley. It is impossible for people, irrespective of political loyalties, to tame their physiological needs indefinitely. Slinger Francisco, known worldwide as the “Mighty Sparrow”, undisputed king of calypso and lyrical genius, sang: “You can't love without money. You can't make love pon hungry belly.”

The modern world has abandoned Michael Manley's brand of socialism. One needs only to look at Venezuela to see the debilitating effect of Manley-type socialism in action.

This excerpt from the respected The Economist is instructive: “As desperation rises, so does the intransigence of Venezuela's 'Bolivarian' regime, whose policies have ruined the economy and sabotaged democracy. The economy shrank by 18.6 per cent last year, according to an estimate by the central bank, leaked this month to Reuters, a news agency. Inflation was 800 per cent. In 2001, Venezuela was the richest country in South America; it is now among the poorest.” ( The Economist, January 28, 2017)

There is a proverb that says: “Communism is a cow of many; well-milked and badly fed.” Socialism and socialists operate on the same principle of “hol' dung and tek weh” or “suffera” economics.

Jamaica's economic scoreboard is again poised for real respectability. The Holness Administration is evidently playing each ball on its merit. These details published in the Jamaica Observer speak to the diligent actions of a team that is putting runs on the board.

“Following their monthly meeting in June, the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) is reporting that Jamaica has met all structural benchmarks under the Precautionary Stand-by Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund based on their review of results available up to the end of May.

“Structural benchmarks are reform measures that are critical to achieving programme goals and are intended as markers to assess programme implementation during a review.

“According to EPOC, the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) has also met the seven structural benchmarks for public sector transformation, public bodies and public service reform through end May 2017.

“Revenue performance continues to be strong, with figures showing tax revenue intake of $33.2 billion in April 2017. According to their June communiqué, EPOC expects that similar drivers of over-performance experienced last fiscal year will result in improved compliance levels in this fiscal year.

“EPOC noted that recurrent expenditure for the first month of the fiscal year fell marginally below budget by $1 billion, while capital expenditure exceeded budget by $4.4 million.

“ 'We note the positive start to capital expenditure, and, given its importance as one of the main drivers of economic growth, encourage the Government to continue this pace throughout the fiscal year. An important quantitative performance criteria is the primary surplus which stood at $6.61 billion at end April ahead of the GOJ target of $5.79 billion by $820 million,' the committee stated in its June report.” ( Jamaica Observer, June 27, 2017)

These facts are important points of light in a country whose economic foundations were almost destroyed in the 70s and 90s by the scorched-earth economic policies of the PNP. Jamaica is once again emerging from the ignominious category of 'the sick man of the Caribbean'.

Some months ago the PNP and its surrogates journeyed into the highways and byways, spewing that the implementation of the Administration's $1.5-million 'tax break' was going to ruin the economy and sink the country into an economic abyss. Nearly 400,000 Jamaicans stopped paying personal income tax this year. The PNP's doomsday scenario did not materialise. I have always contended that since folks are smart enough to earn money honestly, they are smart enough to spend it.

For several months, the PNP, through Ronald Thwaites, its spokesperson on education, and related political emissaries tried to thwart the implementation of the Administration's pre-February 25, 2016 pledge to remove all obligatory fees from the secondary system. Their illegal deliveries failed to take wickets. Today, the vast majority of school administrators are happy that all obligatory fees have been abolished at the secondary level. The Holness Administration scored a ton here.

Most Jamaicans will readily admit that one of their dream objectives is their own home. The National Housing Trust (NHT) on July 1, 2017 made it easier for Jamaicans to access affordable housing. NHT contributors can now borrow up to $5.5 million to build a home on their own land with the NHT Build On Your Own Land Loan. This was judicious stroke play by the Administration.

These details reveal some of the well-timed and sensible hitting that has characterised another masterful century.

“In addition, the loan limit for the home improvement or 'Fifteen Plus' category has been moved from $1.5 million to $2.5 million. The Fifteen Plus loan is for homeowners who last borrowed from the NHT 15 years or more ago and wish to repair, improve, or expand an existing mortgaged property.

“This loan can also be accessed to secure a second home, if the contributor no longer owns a house.

“Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the policy changes on Friday at the ground-breaking for the development of 595 housing solutions (housing units and serviced lots) at Colbeck Castle, phases one and two, in Old Harbour, St Catherine.

“ 'We are widening the reach of the NHT, increasing the allocation to ensure that all Jamaicans have a housing solution,' he said.

“The NHT is expected to write over 8,000 new loans during this fiscal year at a value of $17.8 billion, while rolling out its new housing microfinance initiative which started on April 1. A significant portion of the solutions to be delivered by the NHT will be beneficial to persons earning minimum wage to $12,000 weekly, Prime Minister Holness had said in his budget presentation in March.

“Among the other policies being implemented, as of this month, is access to funding for eligible contributors of seven years or more to allow them to purchase, at minimum, a studio unit.

“Additionally, Holness announced that a special incentive would also be made to eligible contributors who wish to purchase scheme units, with the NHT offering full financing for all the housing solutions it produces. The NHT's house lot loans will also be increased to $2.5 million from $2 million.

“For the financial year, the trust plans to spend $28.6 billion to start work on 5,737 housing solutions, and complete 1,682 in St Andrew, St Catherine, Manchester, Clarendon, St Elizabeth, Hanover, Westmoreland, and St James.” ( Jamaica Observer, July 18, 2017)

The Holness Administration is piling on the runs on the board while the PNP looks on bewildered.

 

Bunting now has egg

The sky has fallen at the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA), and it's the fault of the Jamaica Labour Party. That was the cry from every soapbox and rooftop a few days ago by ex-minister of National Security Peter Bunting and the PNP. Now, Bunting is working overtime to wipe egg from his face. The bombshell in last Sunday's Gleaner, titled 'FLA's folly! - Convicted criminals, friends of board members granted gun licences under questionable circumstances', should teach Bunting and the PNP a valuable lesson. Though I doubt it will.

The story said, among other things: “ Sunday Gleaner sources last Friday pointed to an applicant who was convicted of illegal possession of firearm and money laundering in the United States before being deported to Jamaica. He applied for a firearm permit and was denied in 2011 but was approved on appeal in March 2012.

“In another case, the applicant was found to have been convicted and sentenced for illegal possession of firearm and ammunition in 2011 and his April 2014 application denied. This was overturned on appeal in June 2014.

“The sources also pointed to a case in 2013 where it was found that the applicant had been charged with illegal possession of firearm, and the FLA's report revealed that he 'has intemperate habits'. In October 2013 his application for a 12-gauge shotgun was denied and it was recommended that a licence for a 9mm pistol which he held should be revoked. But he was later granted the licence for the shotgun and given back the 9mm licence on appeal.

“In the latest case, the sources said a known political activist was arrested and charged with lottery scamming-related activities but the case was dismissed after the arresting officer resigned from the police force. He was denied a firearm licence by the FLA and appealed to the then Kent Pantry-led review board, which upheld the decision. But in 2016, the decision was overturned and the licence issued.”

The problems at the FLA are systemic. I hope that the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) investigations lead to radical and positive transformation.

 

Dr Shane Alexis — a lamb to the political slaughter

The birds, those ubiquitous and reliable Black-bellied Plovers, Banana Quits, and John Chewits, are chirping that Dr Shane Alexis, former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association, is heading for a political hiding in St Mary South Eastern.

Here is a question for Dr Alexis. Is it true that you are to become a senator as soon as Angela Brown Burke and/or Mark Golding take up a seat in the Lower House of our Parliament?

 

And when you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back at you. — Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.

 

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