Nice speech, but the new problems are the old problems, Mr Golding
Opposition Leader Mark Golding making his contribution to the Budget Debate on Tuesday. (Photo Garfield Robinson)

Opposition Leader Mr Mark Golding's budget presentation on Tuesday was a hopeful speech for identifying many of the issues that have bedevilled this struggling country over the years.

The trouble with the speech, though, is that the new problems are really the old problems, and unless Mr Golding can say with any credibility how his programmes are going to be financed, one is not inclined to start popping the champagne corks.

Mr Golding, no doubt buoyed by his People's National Party's (PNP) more favourable showing in a public opinion survey commissioned by his party, seemed at his most confident since becoming party president and Opposition leader in 2020.

But while we like a good speech, or manifesto, we have seen how they do not remove the myriad intractable problems that have defied solution, despite the well-meant promises and efforts of every political administration in 60 years of Independence.

It's great that Golding has promised Jamaicans a raft of policies which, he says, will take the country in a new direction and away from the policies of the Andrew Holness-led Administration.

But when he begins to put meat on the bones of his programmes, we will be interested to hear more about the ideas outlined in Parliament, specifically how they will differ from what is now being tried by Mr Holness's beleaguered Administration.

Telling us that he will unveil a raft of anti-corruption policies, by itself, holds no comfort for us. We have walked that path before, sang the Sankey, and read the many scripts. Yet, corruption is as alive today in Jamaica as at any other time.

Other major reforms which he said a PNP Government would deliver include fixing the education system; solving the long-standing issues around land tenure; tackling crime; boosting productivity; and enabling the creative and cultural industries to thrive. Mr Golding will forgive us if we borrow from the late Mr Edward Seaga to remind that it still takes cash to care.

We like the plan to regularise housing arrangements for the 700,000 people living in informal settlements and, for the first time, fully tackle the issue of land titling. The PNP has been at this since the 1970s. We want to see what more he can bring to the table.

The National Housing Trust (NHT), a creation of the Michael Manley Administration of the 1970s, comes up in every budget, be it Jamaica Labour Party or PNP. It is one of the rare success stories of Jamaican politics. But it is past time that we come up with a similarly successful trust, possibly for education, health, or technology.

Anything that can take the education sector in a new direction, as Mr Golding has promised, will get our attention. Here again, talk will not do it. Mrs Fayval Williams has not been merely twiddling her thumb at National Heroes' Circle.

As for crime and violence, Mr Golding is clearly without any new and exciting solutions. We continue to believe that the portfolio must be taken out of the arena of partisan politics, allowing the two major parties to unite the country to fight this terrible scourge. He has so far won some good marks for pushing for the Vale Royal Talks.

For the sake of our beloved Jamaica, we have a vested interest in the success of any political leader. That includes Mr Golding.

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