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War of words

PNP: PR and thieving sums up JLP's term; JLP: We have done more in four years

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, August 13, 2020

CO-CAMPAIGN director of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) Peter Bunting has reduced the stewardship of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to one rife with public relations (PR) and looting, but chairman of the JLP's PR committee Matthew Samuda has shot back, insisting that his Government has done “more in four” than any other Administration.

The bust-up follows Prime Minister Andrew Holness's announcement of a September 3 General Election in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, ending months of speculation as to when Jamaicans would go to the polls.

Speaking to Top of the Morning host Richie B on The Edge FM yesterday, Bunting rated the JLP's term in office as weak, downplaying any development that has occurred within the four-year period.

“They have excelled at two things — PR and thieving. Everything else has been poor. The economy is down; crime is up. The education and health services are in worse shape than they found them, and we are really challenged to bring that reality to the people of Jamaica,” the Manchester Central Member of Parliament insisted.

Bunting said the Government has earned full marks for its public relations machinery and has argued that there is a general perception of success as a result.

He said, however, the reality many are facing at the constituency level tells a different tale.

“When you point out, for example, that there have been 1,200 more murders under this Administration than the previous one, many people are surprised because of how the Government has suppressed the statistics and how they have managed the PR,” the former minister of national security said.

Bunting said, with several states of public emergency running simultaneously throughout the JLP's term in office, the Administration has presided over a higher number of murders when compared to the previous PNP Administration, which operated without this now crime-fighting tool.

Ten states of public emergency, are ongoing across the island in Westmoreland, Hanover, St James, Clarendon, St Catherine, and Kingston and St Andrew, but are scheduled to come to an end on August 17, hours before Nomination Day activities begin.

“We never had a single state of emergency during our four years and we had a lower murder and violent crime rate every year of those four years than any year under the SOEs. In fact, if you look at the murder rate this year and projected through to the end of the year, we'll end up somewhere around 1,367 murders,” Bunting noted.

The latter figure, he said, is 150 more murders than the PNP's worst year in office and 350 more murders than the party's best year.

“So the Government has been a complete failure at controlling violent crime and murders in particular, even though they constantly trumpet their success,” said Bunting.

But in response, Samuda called Bunting disingenuous, noting that his summary of the JLP's tenure is “revisionist at best” and does not reflect the true performance of the party.

“Statistics don't lie. Pre-COVID-19, when you look at the budget that would have been read, and you look at the budgets over the years, and you look at the performance over the years of the Jamaica Labour Party, it is clear that we have done more in four,” Samuda told the Jamaica Observer.

“The facts are, in any category of Government, we have performed better than the previous Administration. I'm not going to look back to the 18 years of destruction but the most recent four years that the country would have faced,” Samuda said.

He argued that when the PNP left office in 2016 unemployment had peaked at approximately 14 per cent, with youth unemployment at 39 per cent.

Samuda said the country's poverty rate had increased and that murder was on a 20 per cent incline. He said that it was the JLP that arrested that trajectory in January 2018.

“The country voted them out because they didn't do a good job. The country rejected the PNP getting a second term... What I can say to you is that when you look at our infrastructure record we have built more kilometres of road; we have rehabilitated more kilometres of farm road. We have built more classrooms and square footage for the education sector; we have opened more primary health care facilities and we have more health centres in the communities than any four-year period,” he mentioned.

He said the JLP's modernisation of the financial legislative arrangements and the outcome in terms of macroeconomic variables resulted in 14 consecutive quarters of growth.

“So the facts are on our side. The statistics are on our side. The country knows we moved what the PNP had created, which was an unemployment rate of 14 per cent to the lowest ever of 7.1 per cent. We moved youth unemployment down by half. In fact, more women in Jamaica were employed up to COVID than ever before.

“So, the fact is, we brought about the prosperity that people would have spoken to, and at the core of that is being employed. Then we made serious steps at addressing underemployment with the 1.5 tax plan... I can go on for hours about the performance of the party. There's no sector that we have not outperformed the People's National Party,” said Samuda.