PNP's 'love the poor' politics left the nation poorer

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, December 09, 2018

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A bird will never hatch from a snake's egg. — Bafumbira proverb, Uganda

Thomas Sowell, American economist and social theorist, who is currently senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, said: “Socialism, in general, has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.” I agree.

In Jamaica, we have those who preach the 'virtues' of a brand of democratic socialism which has brought untold pain and suffering in this country. Yet they persist.

They talk glibly of their undying love for the poor and downtrodden, especially when they are seeking high political office. When they are given the reins of power, they, however, do little, if anything, to ameliorate the miserable conditions of the dispossessed.

“Talkers are usually more articulate than doers, since talk is their specialty,” said Thomas Sowell.

The People's National Party (PNP) has always been good at talking and little else.

Mismatch of words and action

The leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and president of the PNP Dr Peter Phillips recommitted to his party's brand of democratic socialism at his affirmation nearly two years ago. Recall this newspaper article?

“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.' ” ( The Sunday Gleaner, March 26, 2017)

Phillips has stated publicly that he joined the PNP in 1989. He has also told the country that his political umbilical cord is tied to 89 Old Hope Road: “I have worked all my adult life in the PNP. I have PNP antecedents, as my grandfather was a councillor in the Bellefield Division in Manchester, and my father was influenced by his father as well. I have served in four ministries in Jamaica, and I have done well, albeit not without some problems.” ( The Gleaner, December 18, 2016)

Phillips became a Member of Parliament in 1994 ( Sunday Observer, March 6, 2017).

Since 1989 he has held a series of high-level posts in the PNP and, under former prime ministers P J Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller, he held senior Cabinet posts. Between 1995 and 1997 Phillips was the minister of health. He was transport and works minister from 1998 to October 2001. He was the minister of national security from 2001-2005. And from 2011 to February 25, 2016 he was minister of finance and de facto prime minister.

Those who are mouthing on social and traditional media that Phillips has not had enough time to address the glaring deficits in basic housing in St Andrew East Central are either lunatics or liars. I am in no way surprised that dozens of our citizens, including an estimated 80 children who live at 59 Lyndhurst Road in St Andrew East Central, the constituency of Dr Peter Phillips, are facing eviction.

These snippets of a sad story published in last Sunday's Gleaner are the most recent reminders that the PNP's so-called love for the poor is a masquerade. The news item said among other things: “Member of Parliament for St Andrew East Central Dr Peter Phillips has vowed to do all he can to assist residents of 59 Lyndhurst Road who are facing eviction.

According to the six-term MP [Member of Parliament], he is aware of the challenge facing the residents of the property in his constituency, some of whom have been living there for nearly 50 years.

Last week, some residents of the property, who have traditionally voted for the PNP, which Phillips now leads, charged that their party had not done enough to ensure that they had security of tenure.

“ 'I can't believe that the PNP was in power so long and we had a senior Cabinet member, Dr Peter Phillips, as our MP, and all that was needed was that the Housing Act was used to regularise our living here,' said one resident who asked not to be named.”

But Philips later told The Sunday Gleaner that he is working tirelessly for the matter to be resolved in favour of the residents.

I believe this is political neglect on steroids. Is this what 'love for the poor' representation looks like and feels like?

Some on social media who are genetically connected to the PNP are saying 59 Lyndhurst Road is an exception and should not be used to determine whether Phillips is a successful MP. Clearly they have not heard about Frog City in St Andrew East Central.

Recall, these excerpts from a tear-jerking article?

Headline: 'Filthy Frog City - Small community off Maxfield Avenue faces acute health risk' ( The Gleaner, April 22, 2012), “The offensive smell of faeces hung like a thick dark cloud over the Corporate Area community residents call 'Frog City', but which could easily be called 'Filth City'. The community, located off Maxfield and Chisholm avenues, is correctly known as Ricketts Crescent, but for anyone familiar with the area, it is 'Frog City'.

“When our news team visited the area recently the offensive smell was everywhere, and so were the black scandal bags in which full or half-loads of faeces had been tossed close to the playing field of the Norman Manley High School and into makeshift garbage pits, garbage heaps, or the open areas in sections of the community.

“Running water is scarce and sometimes non-existent in the inner-city community.

“Public toilet and bathroom facilities constructed about a decade ago to offer some dignity to the men, women and children are no longer usable after they were vandalised.

“Flies, people and animals commingle in a maze of nastiness. When the wind blows, the residue of filth is felt all over your body, including in your mouth.

“Flies quickly move from the mounds of filth to the mouths of adults and young babies.

“Last Thursday, the Kingston and St Andrew Health Department disclosed that communities in the Hagley Park and Waltham Park areas were heavily infested with deadly disease-carrying rats.”

Rescue at last!

After 'donkey years' of suffering and living in squalor, the citizens in 'Frog City' now have real hope of decent housing. Headline ( The Gleaner, October 4, 2018) 'Frog City' residents to finally get houses'.

The story said, among other things: “After waiting for more than 10 years for construction of housing solutions geared at creating a better community, residents of a section of Maxfield Park, commonly known as Frog City, are finally witnessing the dream becoming a reality with yesterday's breaking of ground for 210 units.

“The $810-million Maxfield Park Housing Project is the first of its kind under the Community Renewal Programme (CRP) administered by the National Housing Trust (NHT), with infrastructure work to begin immediately. Full-scale infrastructure work is to begin in March of 2019, with construction on the first cluster set for October of 2019.

“ 'When construction is completed residents will no longer be labelled as 'people from Frog City', but will be able to enjoy in comfort, modern infrastructural amenities,' Opposition leader and Member of Parliament Dr Peter Phillips has promised.

“ 'They used to call this community Frog City. It was a description that in and of itself shows the denigration of people that live in communities like that. But it is possible to rebrand it. It is possible to provide the tools for people to lift themselves up,' he said. 'Frog City is a thing of the past and shall never be again.'

“Along with the 210 units, the NHT further proposes that the housing solutions be developed using the Skills System model, which matches the type of housing solution according to the needs of the homeowners and their level of affordability. Beneficiaries will be provided with technical expertise and financing through the NHT.”

The political dissonance between talk by the PNP and practical action to benefit the country is now legendary.

Same tune

Recall that when former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller took the oath of office on January 5, 2012 she gave the following solemn promise to the people of Jamaica in her inauguration speech: “The mandate which Jamaicans gave the People's National Party on December 29 is a call to action. It is a signal from our people that we, the Government, must earn their trust. It also gives us the opportunity to ease the burdens and the pressures of increasing poverty, joblessness, and a deteriorating standard of living.” (Excerpt from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's inauguration speech, January 5, 2012)

Simpson Miller's words are hollow when measured against the biting austerity which blanketed the country.

Headline: 'Poverty climbed back to 21% in 2015,' ( The Gleaner, October 8, 2017)

The story said inter alia:

“The prevalence of poverty in Jamaica, at 21.2 per cent, has reached its second-highest level in almost two decades, according to the 2015 survey of living conditions, the latest such study conducted by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN). The poverty rate was estimated at 20 per cent in the previous survey in 2014 and is second only to the 24.6 per cent recorded in 2013. It means that about 593,600 persons among Jamaica's 2.8 million population have been classified as being at the poverty line based on household consumption expenditure.”

While poverty increased, the country wobbled under the weight of the wrecking ball crew of the previous Administration.

Corruption ran rampant. Hundreds of millions were wasted on phantom schemes such as the non-starter technology park and film lot fiasco at the abandoned Goodyear Factory in St Thomas. Jamaica's reputation was damaged by a mountain of incompetence by numerous ministers in the Portia Simpson Miller Administration.

The PNP, after 22 of the last 28 years in power, now says it has a great land, education and economic plan. Rural folks say, “Tom drunk, but Tom nuh fool.”

Crime down, tourism gains

Some folks who are 'burning bad lamp' [wishing ill-will] for Jamaica, doubtless, will be most upset at these recent crime statistics by the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Since the start of the year, 705 fewer violent crimes have been committed in Jamaica compared to 2017. That's a 19 per cent decline in violent crimes. Shootings are down by 21 per cent, cases of rape have declined by 12 per cent, and aggravated assault has decreased by 13 per cent.

I believe we must celebrate good news, similar to how we celebrate 'man bites dog news'.

This heart-warming bit of news should justifiably make all right-thinking Jamaicans proud.

Headline: 'Jamaica sweeps World Travel Awards'

The story said this and more, “Jamaica and Jamaican companies emerged the big winners at the just-concluded World Travel Awards (WTA) Grand Final Gala Ceremony held in Lisbon, Portugal, last night, by winning eight of the coveted awards.

“Notably, Jamaica received the World's Leading Beach Destination and World's Leading Cruise Destination for 2018, a release from the tourism ministry disclosed.” ( Jamaica Observer, December 2, 2018)

PS: Among the several e-mail responses to last week's column, a reader asked if the “Burry” former Prime Minister Michael Manley listed among his “pasieros of the Garrison” was “the same notorious “Burry Boy”. I have decided to give the answer here for the benefit of all my readers who might have similarly wondered. Answer: Yes.

Manley also attended his funeral. The Gleaner of June 13, 2010 noted: “Prime Minister Manley and several Cabinet members led 20,000 mourners at Winston 'Burry Boy' Blake's March 1975 funeral.” [Gray page 187]

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas. — Shirley Chisholm.

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

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