The Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, Prime Minister of Jamaica, addressed the nation and the world on January 5, 2012 as she took the stage to become the country’s 7th Prime Minister, for the 2nd time. In her inaugural address she called for all hands on deck to tackle the nation’s problems while marching proudly into the country’s 50th year of independence. She says “This nation requires the strength, the creativity, the innovation and the steely courage of every Jamaican man, woman, youth and child to place this vessel on a path to prosperity.”
Here are 9 statements from her speech relating to the economy and our BOTTOM LINE feedback.
1. HER STATEMENT: The mandate which Jamaicans gave the People’s National Party on December 29 is a call to action. It is a signal from our people that we, the government, must earn their trust. It also gives us the opportunity to ease the burdens and the pressures of increasing poverty, joblessness and a deteriorating standard of living.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The new government has indeed come at a time of increased poverty and unemployment. As at July 2011 The Statistical Institute of Jamaica reported unemployment rate of 12.3% or 151,900 unemployed Jamaicans (60,900 males and 91,000 females).
2. HER STATEMENT: The Jamaican people have sent a clear message. They want a more accountable and transparent government which consults them; and, they should expect nothing less.
THE BOTTOM LINE: This paragraph in Conrad Hamilton’s article about “Why the JLP Lost” sums it up quite nicely “In the Dudus extradition saga, Bruce Golding committed what could be termed political suicide, as what was revealed was not only inconsistent and insincere but as KD Knight termed it, he was pathologically mendacious. The Tivoli incursion affected the base of the party as the instructions to invade came from a Bruce Golding led Jamaica Labour Party. The killing of the 73 people as well as the killing of Keith Clarke in his own home in front of his wife and child remains unaccounted for. This is under the regime of a man who promised accountability, transparency, you name it”.
3. HER STATEMENT: My fellow Jamaicans, the first order of business for the members of the Leadership Team will be to inform ourselves about the true state of the Jamaican economy.
THE BOTTOM LINE: She was speaking in line with what was disclosed by Omar Davies at the PNP’s press conference about the transition into Leadership held January 05, 2012. The Jamaica Observer reported him saying “There has been less than adequate information provided in that regard and hence before we make any definitive statements as to what will be carried out in the short term, the first order of business will be to ascertain exactly what is the present situation…”
The PNP doesn’t have to look far to find out Jamaica’s true state of the Jamaican economy. David McFadden of the Associated Press could easily provide this perspective for them. “On Jamaica’s rutted streets, the complaints have been chronic — home ownership is out of reach for most wage earners, the cost of electricity has skyrocketed, water service regularly fizzles out and decent jobs are scarce.
Fed up with chronic hard times, voters in this debt-wracked Caribbean nation on Thursday threw out the ruling party and delivered a landslide triumph to the opposition People’s National Party, or PNP, whose campaign energetically tapped voter disillusionment especially among the numerous struggling poor.”
4. HER STATEMENT: We remain committed to a vibrant partnership with all critical stakeholders; local private sector; the public sector—civil servants who play a pivotal role in nation building; our international partners; and, in particular, with the International Monetary Fund, as we identify the basis for a new Agreement.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is more than enough consensus in this matter. This also seems to be in line with what was being pushed by the previous administration – PPP (public-private partnership) that is. As recent as Friday, December 09, 2011 Former Prime Minister Andrew Holness said a major thrust of a new government led by him will be a public/private partnership (PPP) aimed at divesting loss-making entities to the private sector.
The Jamaica Observer reported him saying “Going forward the Government will be looking carefully at all its operations and we will be moving significantly to take them off our books and find a way to incorporate the private sector in the service provision, in the capital development and in the management of the services and goods that the government provides for its citizens.”
5. HER STATEMENT: Our policies are based on the principle that the private sector is a major participant in shaping the economy of our country. However, in a time of crisis, government must act to stimulate growth and to restore confidence in the country’s ability to pay its way. Hence, in the short and medium term, we will use state resources to stimulate employment through the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP).
THE BOTTOM LINE: A LOT has been said about the JEEP. We have aired our 5 grouses with the JEEP. Others have done so widely leading up to the elections. The views are mixed. What is agreed on though, is that government spending does help to stimulate the economy. As one major contender of this issue, Ian Boyne wrote on Sunday September 25, 2011, “Portia’s proposals for economic stimulus loans, tax incentives for the creation of jobs, and tax holidays to encourage entrepreneurship are precisely the policies which have resulted in the success of all the countries which have done well.”
6. HER STATEMENT: We will do so in a transparent and non-partisan manner, to improve critical areas, such as the infrastructure and the environment, which support economic growth.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Ensure that the areas being focused can contribute to GDP growth – especially the two mentioned.
7. HER STATEMENT: Let me say emphatically to our business community, at home and overseas…we will pursue a tight fiscal policy, reduce our debt to GDP ratio, maintain the key macro-economic fundamentals; and be very careful and prudent in our debt management.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Much does not need to be said on managing the economy. There is not much room to manoeuvre. The electorate is watching. The IMF is watching. There are already 4 top pending economic issues to be addressed. We can start here.
8. HER STATEMENT: We will do all of this while seeking to improve the social conditions of our people, including a serious reduction of the chronic state of unemployment in this country, particularly among our young people.
THE BOTTOM LINE: We are looking for it. Better living conditions.
9. HER STATEMENT: Our investors, including foreign direct investors, must contribute to making Jamaica a truly competitive economy. Now, more than ever, we must also make it easier to do business in Jamaica. Investors demand no less, and our future social and economic prospects depend on it.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The PNP promised a number of measures in its manifesto to make it easier to do business in Jamaica. These include but are not limited to introducing new legislation and renewing the focus on facilitating small and medium sized enterprises which make the greatest contribution to economic growth and employment.
What do you think about these statements made in the inaugural address?