The news headline from one major media house summed up just how bizarre Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller’s address to the nation was. The headline “Calls Mounting for PM to give second address to the nation” carried Tuesday illustrates to a dramatic degree just how much more confused our nation is after the broadcast. It may have been a bout of desperation and wishful thinking but the thousands of Jamaicans who tuned in expected the Prime Minister to bring clarity to affairs concerning our economic crisis, direction regarding the inking of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a credible plan of action guiding the country’s urgent need for foreign exchange earning development and job creation. Alas, the Prime Minister fell so so short of the mark that concerned observers namely Financial Analyst Dennis Chung and Jamaica Chamber of Commerce President Francis Kennedy made the unprecedented call for the Prime Minister to address the nation a second time. I have never heard such a position ever. Can you imagine American society leaders calling on President Barack Obama to give a second national address because his first was a complete mess? What an embarrassment that would be for the President and his administration; somebody would have been fired.
The Simpson-Miller Simpson-Miller administration due to high levels of inaction, flagrant spending, failure to carry through on campaign promises and with no direction is fast losing credibility. The Minister of Finance Dr. Peter Phillips has run out of excuses and now admits after many failed deadlines and promises, that there are prior action requirements that must be performed before he can get a deal with the IMF. His Opposition counterpart and former Minister of Finance Audley Shaw had asked Dr. Phillips to be transparent and state publicly what these requirements are and how long they will take to be accomplished, as these will then determine the actual time frame for a new IMF Agreement. Sadly, all along Dr. Phillips has been misleading the people when he insisted in September that there are no sticking points and that he would have an agreement by December last year.
SHAW DID IT
While Mr. Shaw under the then JLP led administration had problems with the IMF, he implemented a successful debt exchange (the Jamaica Debt Exchange) and carried through major game changing initiatives such as the introduction of a Fiscal Responsibility Framework; the Junior Stock Exchange, which encouraged business expansion; sharply lowered interest rates and convinced the Chinese Government to invest large sums of money in Jamaica without the need for loans to Jamaica or loans guaranteed by the Government of Jamaica. This explains why the North-South Highway is now underway. Further yet, the expansion of the Port at FortAugusta and the Caymanas Economic Zone will be a reality from over US$2 billion of Chinese funds to be invested.
Beyond that as late as November of 2011, a mere month before the general election, Mr. Shaw borrowed US$318 million from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank at a mega low 1.2 percent interest rate per annum, demonstrating that despite the suspension of reviews from the IMF, he still had credibility to raise funds.
NO SUPPORT FOR PHILLIPS
As it stands now, it is more than apparent that Minister Phillips has little support from the Prime Minister who herself is failing to lead, and has failed to get consensus from the Cabinet on the way forward thereby leaving the ship of state of Jamaica drifting like a helmless and rudderless vessel.
Where is the leadership?