Progress with progressives
The People’s National Party (PNP) has traditionally had a number of distinct advantages when compared to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). The PNP, for example, successfully branded itself as the party of natural choice for many years. And, with more than a little help from a majority of the lettered class in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, the PNP also convinced a critical mass that it possessed greater affection for the “small man” — meaning the poor and downtrodden. Today, the PNP no longer has those distinct advantages.
Why? Among other things, the Cold War which started in 1947 came to a crashing end in the early 90s. This massively precipitated political shifts on our shores. The vagaries of liberalisation and privatisation, especially in the 80s, significantly helped to shift the ideological plates in this country. And the massive misapplication of free enterprise policies in the 90s resulted in enormous economic decline and rapid social degradation. These are all factors which significantly helped to reconfigure what was traditionally called our working class. Consequently, the notion that the PNP as the natural party of government was disassembled. Soon after, the “This is PNP country” doctrinaire become fangless.
At the 80th annual conference of the JLP, Venesha Phillips, who has represented the Papine Division in the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation since March 2012, was introduced as a member of the party. She made some very insightful statements. Most notably she said: “This decision was finally made over the last month. I have been engaged for the last two and half years by colleagues of the Jamaica Labour Party and members of the leadership, but I didn’t want it to be something that was kind of a knee-jerk reaction from my deciding to go independent and leaving the PNP,” she explained.
“I had a lot to think about. I had to think about why I was PNP, and I had to think about what it is that I want to convey to Jamaica by my actions as a representative. Having looked at the PNP you will agree with me that it is not the organisation, certainly, that you are used to from Michael Manley to today,” she said.”
The Jamaica Observer news item of last Monday also delivered these and related details: “Phillips also said that she came to the conclusion that the PNP in its current form is not in the best interest of the people of Jamaica, in terms of what is required to move the country forward.
She said that, after reviewing what prime minister and JLP leader Andrew Holness has done so far, even PNP people have said on political platforms that Holness is using Manley’s play book.
“Think about that message; I had to think about that, and I said myself, ‘That message resonates with me.’ The current leadership of the PNP has no use for that message; they have said so, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I would follow the message to which I have been grounded and rooted since I was born,” Phillips said.
“The truth is, you have seen the growth in Andrew Holness and the Jamaica Labour Party. You see political maturity, you see succession, you see vision; that used to be a thing we talked about when we talk about PNP. Today, unfortunately, that’s not the conversation you are having,” she added.” In a nutshell Ms Phillips was saying the PNP is unrecognisable today.
Phillips is correct. As I see it, the conscientious conservative JLP is the real progressive party. The PNP experimented with socialism in the 70s and failed miserably. The economy nosedived by 1974 after Michael Manley came to power in 1972. It is a fact that fears and trepidation walked our land.
Many Jamaicans thought we were going communist. These excerpts, for example, from The Gleaner of December 31, 1976, page 10, illustrate why the fears of thousands of Jamaicans were justified:
Headline: ‘Socialism is communism, says Munroe’
The Gleaner reported, among other things: “A public meeting was held recently at the Savanna-la-Mar courthouse in Westmoreland by Dr Trevor Monroe, the communist leader. The meeting was held in support of Pearl McKoy, PNP candidate for Central Westmoreland. Dr Munroe said that there was no difference between socialism and communism. He said, ‘Socialism is communism and communism is socialism.’ “
In the 90s, the PNP experimented with free enterprise polices and made a total hash of it. I provided copious and verifiable evidence on that score previously.
Real vs Fake Progressives
In the 2000s the PNP continued its dalliance with free market policies. The consequences of the PNP’s ping pong experiments with socialism, which is antithetical to human nature, and its dalliances with free market enterprise have been extremely costly to the Jamaican people.
As I see it, the PNP today does not know whether it is ‘fish or fowl’, as we say in the rural parts. Are they socialist? Its present leader, who has got rich off of free enterprise ventures, says he is a socialist. But its most revered past President Michael Manley pronounced socialism dead nearly three decades ago.
Maybe it is the PNP’s confusion over whether it is socialist or capitalist which caused it to vehemently oppose the removal of user fees as a prerequisite to access basic health care at public health facilities.
The Bruce Golding Administration wisely ignored the PNP’s cacophony and implemented the removal of fees. Consequently, thousands of Jamaicans who previously could not access health care were able to do so. The programme won local and international plaudits.
The no-user-fee health policy implemented during the Bruce Golding Administration was a win-win for the Jamaican economy, said the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB): “The Government’s no-user-fee policy in health care has contributed US$26.6 million (in purchasing power parity terms) worth of net real production to the Jamaican economy, while adding 2.15 additional weekly hours to the labour market, according to a recent publication by the same IDB.
“The publication, entitled ‘Universal Public Health Insurance Adult Status and Labour Supply in Jamaica’, revealed that the policy, which was passed in 2008 by then Prime Minister Bruce Golding, increased aggregate labour supply by 53.2 million hours each year between 2008 and 2012.
“The policy, which underwent much criticism both during and after its implementation, has had a positive effect on the overall health of Jamaicans as there was an 18.2 per cent reduction in the likelihood of people suffering any illness, the study said, whilst a significant reduction equivalent to 0.17 days (34 per cent) was reported for people who were unable to carry out normal activities due to illnesses.
“This, the report suggests, has benefited uninsured individuals by helping them to have faster recovery from illnesses, and also to supply more labour which creates more production for the economy.” (Jamaica Observer, July 26, 2017).
Recall, too, that the PNP vigorously argued that Jamaica could not afford the removal of tuition at the secondary level. The JLP successfully did it. Beneficiaries of “free education” in the 1970s were some the most vociferous opponents. The thinking is symptomatic of slaves who lived in the plantation great house. I was not surprised.
In 2002 the PNP promised to remove cost sharing by 2005 — that promise was not kept. The majority of schools were getting a mere 30 per cent compliance with regard to the payment of obligatory fees when the cost-sharing programme was abandoned by the JLP. Large numbers of parents simply just could not pay. Today the schools are better funded. This is what real progressives do.
Real progressives relieve the stresses and stressors on people’s pocket. The PNP say they love the poor and the downtrodden, yet they were brutishly against the implementation of the “$1.5-million income tax relief”. Some 400,000 Jamaicans are benefiting. This is what real progressives do.
Real progressives ensure that there is a sound economic base so that targeted redistribution, especially to the most vulnerable, is sustained. Our economy is in the best state it has been for 50 years. Still, individuals whose political antecedents are well known continue to argue on social and traditional media that the people of Jamaica are not feeling the benefits of the improvements. They need to explain to the country whether the ordinary Jamaicans who are direct beneficiaries of the thousands of new jobs created in the eight years are duppies [ghosts] at Calvary or some other cemetery.
The Good Book says, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread…” real progressives ensure that policies and programmes are implemented to enable this to happen. Fakes only talk about it.
Fake progressives encourage dependency. They encourage the mentality of handouts. They romanticise ‘sufferation’. Real progressives work to ensure that folks get the opportunity to not only catch their own fish, but as far as is possible to own the waters in which the fish are caught.
The prudent batting of the Holness Administration during the last eight years has ensured low inflation and a stable dollar. The last time I checked, the Jamaican currency traded $155.25 to US$1. Interest rates are low; business and consumer confidence are high; and the major international rating agencies, including Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s, have either affirmed or upgraded their outlook on Jamaica from stable to positive.
Jamaica is meeting International Monetary Fund (IMF) benchmarks with relative ease while not imposing brutal austerity upon the population. This is what real progressives do. The fake ones attempt to redistribute what has not been produced, and when they cannot do the impossible they borrow, overtax, and bankrupt the economy.
At present Jamaica has some US$4.6 billion in reserves in our central bank — the most we’ve had since our country’s Independence. Jamaica’s debt is steadily decreasing as a result of increased payments being made by the Government. This is what real progressives do. Fakes ones jack up interest rates, and sop up liquidity from all parts of the globe, as happened in the 90s when Dr Omar Davies was the minister of finance.
Real progressives implement targeted strategies to cushion the bite of inflation so that the most vulnerable are protected. Fake progressives quarrel that such conscientious measures are ineffective.
Consider this: ‘Ineffective! Opposition declares lack of confidence in wisdom of JUTC fare rollback.’ (RJR News, November 22, 2023). The news item said, among other things: “The parliamentary Opposition has characterised the planned rollback in JUTC [Jamaica Urban Transit Company] fares as ineffective in reducing inflation as only a small segment of the population stand to benefit from the move.”
Fake progressives believe love is a noun only. Real progressives show that love is a verb too.
The JLP had much to be genuinely happy about at the public session of its 80th annual conference held last Sunday. The positive shift in our macroeconomic indicators, particularly over the last eight years, is a welcome change from the economic doldrums which characterised the years when the PNP formed the governing Administration.
Jamaica’s economy staggered like a drunken man for many years. We were justifiably seen as the sick man of the Caribbean, primarily because our potentials were greatly underutilised and consequently unrealised. I believe the respect Jamaica had regionally and internationally in the 60s and 80s, but lost in the 70s and 90s, is returning. This is what real progressives do. Fakes ones spend the lion’s share of their time in government bellyaching about ideological oppression and nebulous isms and schisms, while they bamboozle the populace with highfalutin distractions and dodges.
Strategic Relay Delivery
I think the annual conference of both parties should be used to reinvigorate and revitalise the base, and also to simultaneously inform and engage the country at large. I think Prime Minister Andrew Holness did that brilliantly last Sunday.
Holness concentrated mostly on the big quality of life issues, such as climate change and its wide-ranging implications, electricity generation, renewable energy, crime and violence and the social factors which are driving it, and most importantly the new ambition for Jamaica in the coming years.
In relay-like fashion Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke spoke on the many economic advances. He did an expert job. Speakers before him in a strategic relay fashion spoke to various matters of local import. I think the JLP ran a winning relay at the 80th annual conference.