Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government have been chalking up international recognition for their handling of crises such as the novel coronavirus pandemic and management of the economy.
The recent historic visit of the World Bank President Ajay Banga and the Inter-American Development Bank President Ilan Goldfajn speaks volumes about the steady manner in which the country has been managing its affairs. In fact, Banga had high praises for Jamaica's current economic health, noting, "Your country has managed your macro situation very well." He underscored that "it is not the same for many developing countries which took on a great deal of debt when interest rates were low, both international and domestic debt".
The Miami Herald on Wednesday, June 28 published an article titled 'How Jamaica and its prime minister are becoming a mini-superpower in the Caribbean', which highlights how the country has been reversing decades of "crippling debt, double-digit deficits, and negative growth". It stated that "Jamaica… is showing its ability to weather crises – and its hard-won economic stability is getting noticed along with the leadership of its prime minister".
The article is a timely piece, especially given the current context of polls and dwindling favourability scores of the Government. Although some people believe the article was influenced by the JLP's public relations machinery, it is important to note that it also highlighted some criticisms and shortfalls of the Government. The author, Jacqueline Charles, has also confirmed that the article was not politically motivated.
Whilst as humans we possess biases, if we employ our critical thinking skills to assess the recent major crises in our country, we would applaud the Government for its handling of them. Of course, this is not to say there are not imperfections.
Despite his level of arrogance at times, the prime minister was correct when he said that had the Government not exercised fiscal discipline and prudence, there would not have been a meaningful salary compensation review. Notwithstanding, many people remain clueless about its calculations and are unhappy that their previous allowances were snatched away, while the political directorate enjoys 200 to 300 per cent increases. Since that grand announcement in Parliament, several Jamaicans have called for a rollback and for the funds to be rechannelled into other meaningful causes, such as education.
It is good to get external recognition from time to time. It shows that others are taking note and there are lessons that can be learnt. However, what is the average Jamaican saying? How do they feel about the running of the country? How do they feel about the prospects of remaining here and building themselves? Sadly, many of them do not feel optimistic about securing a solid, meaningful future in Jamaica. The majority of those I interact with are planning to migrate. Immigration processes are becoming much easier, with Germany being one of the latest countries to amend legislation to open its borders to more international applicants outside of the European Union.
Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams sought to provide a diplomatically correct response when asked about the number of teaching vacancies being advertised in the newspapers. The truth is that many teachers who apply for four or eight months leave are not planning to return to the Jamaican classroom. I interact with teachers daily; I know many of the competent and experienced ones are leaving. Expect to see numerous adverts over the course of summer.
Are Jamaicans satisfied with the Andrew Holness-led Administration? Going by the recent polls, the answer is clear. The Government boasts about its no new tax policy, but inflation continues to affect the rise in costs. Those who will have to pay increased toll rates effective July 1 will certainly not be happy.
The Opposition's People's National Party is relishing its moment of glory as its poll suggests the party has been closing the gap with the JLP. However, it still has a lot more work to put in to bring stability to the party and attract the hundreds of thousands of voters who have become uninterested in the political system. As Raymond Pryce rightly said, voters are moving away from the JLP but they are not flocking the PNP: "What I have discovered, it is like we are over here and Holness over there, the people are moving away from him, but they are clutched in the middle, wondering what we deh pon as PNP."
Despite the shortfall of the JLP, will Jamaicans trade Andrew Holness for Mark Golding; Dr Nigel Clarke for Julian Robinson or Dr Andre Haughton; or Edmund Bartlett for Janice Allen; or Robert Morgan for Dr Dayton Campbell? The ballots will speak at the appropriate time.
Oneil Madden is interim chair/head of Department of Humanities and lecturer in language(s) and linguistics at Northern Caribbean University. He is also a PhD candidate in applied linguistics at Clermont Auvergne University, France. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.