‘Puss inna bag’
We are living in a political era in which loyalty or diehard voters are dwindling fast in many Western liberal democracies. Simultaneously, chronic political apathy is increasing and demagoguery is no longer king of the hill.
Doubtless this realisation is one of the major reasons that the Andrew Holness-led Administration quite sensibly has been focusing on the implementation of seismic societal shifts. I believe Prime Minister Holness knows that results which register in people’s pockets and on dinner tables are far more important than wild rhetoric. I have said it here before, but it bears repeating that the majority of especially our youth voters today are not preoccupied with futile ideology. They are many times more pragmatic than former generations.
As I see it, timely implementation of transformative policies and programmes is the most valuable political hard currency today. Reliance on political guff is the equivalent of investing in junk bonds.
What’s in the bag?
Last Sunday I said here that the major Achilles heel of the Mark Golding-led Opposition was the absence of a clear, forward, fundable, and practical plan/agenda for our country after nearly three years of rehearsing for the highest elected office in the land. I have received feedback from some who vehemently protested. They say I am mistaken.
In their missives they sound off that the People’s National Party (PNP), indeed, has a plan, but is holding it very close to its chest because of fear that the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration will steal it, were it made public, too early before a national election.
This defence was predictable. It is, the default position of those who, for reasons which are easy to discern, embrace the proverbial “puss inna bag” (acceptance of outlandish and impractical promises without critique) approach in the conduct of our national affairs that has done immeasurable damage to the social, economic, and political growth and development of this country.
I don’t believe the PNP gets it, that there is a new and more discerning type of voter. The scattering of last-minute sweeteners to lure significant groups of voters bore fruit in the past. That kind of wholesale voter malleability is now dead and buried, as I see it.
I expect some are going bellow: “But, Higgins, why don’t you lobby for the governing JLP to show the plan for the future in their bag.”
Newsflash: Incumbents run on their achievements, or the stay the course formula, while Opposition parties vie for State power using the framework of time for a change.
The governing JLP is approaching eight years in office. I am pretty sure the people of Jamaica already have a good feel of their achievements, or lack thereof. Additionally, there is the not-so-small matter of practical exigency. “He who has raw meat must seek fire,” goes the local saying. It is the PNP which is desperately seeking to take back Jamaica House.
And here is something for the staunch defenders of “puss inna bag”. Political scientists — I am talking here about credible ones — posit that voters typically make up their minds about who they will vote for in a national election upwards of two years before its actual holding. There is much credible evidence in the public domain that the JLP has, and is implementing many good, fundable and practical ideas.
Conversely there is a wealth of evidence that the PNP’s three, or near eight — depending on how you count it — years of auditioning for a return to Jamaica House is mere mumbo jumbo and grandstanding.
I presented details previously.
It is an insult to the people of this country that after constant to-ing and fro-ing in the country, the PNP has failed to present a national plan which specifically itemises how constituencies which Golding revisits are earmarked for growth and development. This is unacceptable in 2023. “Puss inna bag” is not best practice.
On the matter of best practice, or lack thereof, Golding, on the hustings last week, tried to resurrect one of his best bad ideas. I believe a bad idea is bad no matter its author. Speaking at a PNP meeting in Church Pen, Old Harbour, St Catherine, last Sunday, Golding said, among other things: “We tell dem dem must care for the people and cushion the crisis and dem doan wah hear we.”
What was he talking about?
Recall this: “People’s National Party (PNP) President Mark Golding is demanding that the Government increase the amount of social spending allocated for low-income groups struggling with a cost-of-living crisis and spiralling global inflation.
“He put the price tag of the bailout for Jamaica’s poorest at $40 billion.
“Golding, who was addressing the PNP Women’s Movement Conference on Sunday, lambasted the Holness Administration for what he describes as ‘minimal’ support for citizens beleaguered by soaring prices for basic commodities such as fuel and food.”
” ‘This Government is pulling the wool over the eyes of the people because they are singing the message that they are doing something to support the population, but what they are doing is superficial and cannot have a meaningful impact on the lives of those who need help,’ Golding, who is also Opposition leader, told the partisan crowd.” (The Gleaner, July 11, 2022)
My recollection is that Golding’s spending spree recommendation, almost a year ago, was greeted with overt scepticism and palpable disbelief by well-thinking Jamaicans. Among other things, Golding did not deliver a formula for how his $40-billion scheme would be applied. He still has not done so. It is not difficult to make an informed guesstimate.
From experience in this country we all should know how ‘run wid it’ jaunts are exercised. Recall, Jamaica was brought to the brink of economic collapse because of similarly related irresponsible episodes in the 1990s. It seems that some among us want Jamaica to be broke like Sri Lanka. It is a nonsense we must strenuously and democratically reject.
The resurrection of failed populist ideas cannot help better Jamaica.
My understanding of supply and demand tells me that simply dumping ton-loads money into the economy in the hope of helping the poor and the most vulnerable is fantasy economics. It does not help the poor; it makes the poor worse off.
I believe it is a great harbinger that Golding continues to propose his $40-billion spending spree. Recall that at the time when he first announced it inflation was nearly 8.5 per cent. Today, due to the good work of an independent Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), inflation has come down to 5.8 per cent (April 2023). Yet Golding continues to bellow for a spending spree.
The reduction of inflation proves that implementation counts. “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas,” said Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the United States Congress.
Jamaica would be foolhardy to return to the days, for example, when our inflation rate skyrocketed. Inflation averaged 27.2 per cent per annum over the period 1990-1999, according to Bank of Jamaica figures.
Rural folks warn that we must “tek sleep and mark death”. They are right. As I see it, the Administration needs to continue to apply a series of carefully crafted and calibrated measures in a timely manner in order to keep inflation low. Of course, the role of an independent central bank, implemented by the Holness Administration, which has the power to craft policies based on its priorities for the monetary system cannot be discounted among the raft of measures that must be applied simultaneously and carefully to keep the inflation beast under control.
As I see it, last Sunday Golding sent the clearest signal yet that the PNP is planning a return to the darks days of deleterious tax and spend and redistribution minus production. And there is something else: Golding resurrection of an extremely bad idea is another layer of confirmation that he does not have a fundable, workable, and practical plan for the future of Jamaica.
All well-thinking citizens need to insist that Golding, our prime minister-in-waiting present an agenda which specifically speaks to the growth and development of the country. I maintain that, at a minimum, Golding needs to provide fundable, workable and practical answers to these questions:
1) Where are his and the PNP’s new and/or better ideas on how to grow the Jamaican economy?
2) Where are his and the PNP’s new and/or better ideas to remedy the long-standing matters of social decline?
3) Where are his and the PNP’s new and/or better ideas to fix the issue of major crimes, and murder in particular?
All well-thinking citizens have a duty to guard against empty sloganeering. Our politics going forward must be situated on agendas of growth and development, not tomfoolery and guff.
Those who shout the loudest do not necessarily deserved to be listened to the most. That is a very valuable lesson I have learned from my travels within and outside of Jamaica.
Here is another beneficial lesson I have also learned: “Beware when a hungry man offers you food.”
Some years ago I said, among other things, in this space: “I do not believe that social powder puffs, or forms of emotional embrace, will soothe or silence the ravenous monsters among us whose vocation is rape, robbery, murder, and other heinous acts. Those who are wedded to criminal mayhem must be hunted, captured, and put before the courts. Those who attack State personnel, so as to endanger their lives and/or the lives of other law-abiding citizens, must not be treated with kid gloves. It is a matter of us or the criminals. That much has long been clear to me.” My position has not changed.
The brutal murder of 8-year-old Danielle Rowe days ago hopefully reminded all who might have forgotten that there are some stone cold killers among us. They have iced water running through their veins. These are the kinds of men and women some among us give shelter and protection from the law.
The abduction and murder of Danielle Rowe hopefully punched home some unpleasant realities. Why? Many continue to delude themselves with ostrich-like thinking vis-à-vis how to deal with those whose vocation is the creation of murder and mayhem. I hope their self-induced slumber has finally been permanently interrupted.
It has not escaped my notice that some who invariably jump out to condemn State killing of vicious gunmen, up to the time of writing, have hugged a stony silence regarding the murder of Danielle Rowe. Why do they continue to bolster the putrid minds of contract killers, rapists, and indeed all those who commit great acts of savagery? What is their endgame?
I have been saying here for years that more than outrage for nine days is needed. Far too many of us are yet to understand that looking out for the neighbour’s interest is similar to protecting ours. Someone knows who murdered Danielle Rowe and is shielding the fiendish beast. Those who are disciples of the “mi nuh business”, “ah nuh fi mi business”, or to use a biblical reference, the Levite Approach, are only setting up themselves for the wrath of criminals who are emboldened by their silence/consent.
On the matter of criminals being emboldened, I know that the best deterrent to crime is the certainty of being caught. Citizens, working with the proper authorities play a critical role in improving this certainty quotient. It is time we all make up our minds whose side we are on; that of the criminals or the law-abiding.
As for those who have plastered a political spin on the awful death of Danielle Rowe, it is obvious to me whose side they are on.
Garfield Higgins is an educator, journalist and a senior advisor to the minister of education and youth. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.