In a United States of America diplomatic cable dated July 8, 2008 then Opposition Member of Parliament Dr. Peter Phillips told an American diplomatic official that Jamaica risked becoming the “English-speaking Haiti” if the then JLP Government failed in its reform efforts and if Portia Simpson-Miller, whom he called a “disaster” for the country, was returned to power. Dr. Phillips also said that “it is an astonishing possibility that the PNP, after running the country into the ground for the last eighteen years, could possibly come back to power.”
Dr. Phillips was dead right. He read the tea leaves well.
The diplomatic cable went on to state that, “Phillips’s dislike of Simpson Miller, insistence that he would not serve in another government run by her, and harsh criticism of the PNP’s 18-year reign seem to smack a bit of convenient amnesia, as he served as minister without a portfolio, minister of special projects, minister of transport and works, minister of health, and minister of national security over successive PNP terms in power from 1993 to 2007”.
When asked by the US official as to whether he would serve in another Simpson-Miller led government he said, “no; it would simply be too distasteful.” It was in this same time period that Dr. Phillips launched a bid to unseat Simpson-Miller from the Presidency of the PNP. He failed for a second time.
Yesterday, December 29, 2012, Dr. Phillips, now Minister of Finance through a lengthy Press Release stated that there will be no IMF agreement this year. The uncertainty and poor management of the economy for 2012 has resulted in a major and frighteningly frenetic reversal in the economic gains of last year under the Golding and Holness led JLP administrations. The Net International Reserves has plunged from just about US$2 billion to around US$1.2 billion to date. Beyond that, the exchange rate has galloped from J$86: US$1 to over J$93: US$1; business and consumer confidence are at records lows; unemployment is at its highest in over a decade and the economy rode back into recession after growth last calendar year. The horrible Christmas sales and the general fall off for the preceding months with many businesses recording declines in excess of 50 percent is just confirmation of the absolute disastrous state of affairs. Job cuts and further consolidation can be expected next year as many struggle to make ends meet.
There is ample evidence that Prime Minister Simpson-Miller and Dr. Phillips just don’t and simply cannot get along. The two battles for the leadership of the PNP and the unflattering comments by Dr. Phillips in the US diplomatic cable confirm this. Beyond that it is widely known in some circles that the relationship between the Prime Minister and Finance Minister is frosty at best. As such how can we in this time of grave economic difficulties expect a challenging IMF Agreement to be hammered out any time soon? Will the failed Dr. Omar Davies replace Dr. Phillips as Minister of Finance? What difference does it make in any event, especially in a context where the Prime Minister is clearly out of her depth and Dr. Davies record is one of economic terrorism? What is really happening and how much worse will things get?
2013 is gonna be an interesting year.