BRUCE GOLDING’S FIRST PUBLIC SPEECH IN OVER A YEAR – KEY QUOTES

bruce

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding was the official Guest Speaker at the packed Jamaica Chamber of Commerce 31st annual awards dinner at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica last Thursday night. Mr. Golding clinically assessed the matters related to the IMF and Jamaica’s economy, while offering advice to Prime Minister Simpson-Miller. This is Mr. Golding’s first public speech in over a year. His words were wise, sobering and very well-received.

Here are most of his key statements:

THE IMF

The suspense and the agonizing that have attended these negotiations bring with them a tactical hazard, that we may be inclined to comfort ourselves that concluding a new IMF agreement is the ultimate goal, the end of a long an difficult struggle. We would do well to recall the words of Winston Churchill in 1942 when Britain’s fortunes in World War 2 began to change, and he said that, This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, it is perhaps the end of the beginning

The choices that are open to us are so stark and so few that we cannot afford not to get it right this time, we must do what is needed to get us back on our feet or we must be prepared to remain bedridden.

We have been around this mulberry bush for so long that it is not hard to understand why the Jamaican people are so skeptical of any new adjustment program because they fear that it is going to be only a matter of time before we stumble upon another crunch time. It is this diminishing credibility of successive adjustments that make it important for us to get it right once and for all. Both historical and contemporary experience show us, that timidity, half measures not only do not fix the problem but make that fix even more painful in the future…

THE WAY FORWARD

I am not in a position to prescribe the precise mix of policies and actions that government needs to take; I have been away from the numbers and the modeling of alternative strategies for almost 18 months, what I am absolutely clear about, is that the actions enunciated so far will not put us on a path to economic growth, they may meet the conditions embodied in the IMF agreement, but even if it won’t be business as usual, it will be merely be business as it use to be before we got to the edge of the cliff, not business as it needs to be to sustain hope, stimulate investments, create jobs and promote growth.

The Measures that need to be taken must go beyond those that the IMF requires in order to create space for pro-growth initiatives. In other words we need to be IMF plus if we are to stand a chance of not just passing IMF tests but getting to the stage where we can stand on our own feet once again.

THE PUBLIC SECTOR

It is an illusion of compassion, an illusion of compassion for us to maintain hundreds of government departments and agencies when there is no money to fund the work that those agencies and departments are to do. So for no fault of their own they are sitting down basically idle, because all we can pay are the salaries and the utilities and we are not able to fund the programmes, the work that they are supposed to do. In the process we simply put the future of the entire country in peril.

TAX REFORM

The comprehensive tax reforms proposals that were taken to Parliament in 2011 have been so adulterated, these were proposals designed broadly speaking to broaden the tax net and reduce the tax rates, they have been so adulterated that what is being implemented now is a mere shadow of what was originally conceived.

PENSION REFORM

The Pension reform proposals which were also taken into Parliament in 2011, I have just been told have been put off for another 3 years. The cost of government pension doubled in the last 5 years and are likely to double again in the next 3 years.

PUBLIC SECTOR RATIONALISATION

The Public Sector Rationalisation      Program, again presented to Parliament in May of 2011, designed to merge      the functions of several government agencies and to reduce the size of the      Public Sector by over 10,000 over the next 5 years are over a five year      period have been dealt a severe blow by the government’s undertaking that      there will be no lay offs.

CIVIL SOCIETY AND DECISION MAKING

As our democracy has matured and as civil society have become more engaged and more organized there is this increasing demand for consultation, that is healthy and it can be beneficial to government in securing greater understanding creating confidence, building partnerships. And in those consultations the government must be disposed to listen to contrary views and to adopt suggestions that can improve the effectiveness of government policy. But we must never lose sight of the fact that it is the government, not civil society groups that was elected to formulate and implement the policies that IT, the government, considers appropriate and necessary for the good management of the public affairs of Jamaica as the oath of office prescribes. Too often the demand for consultations leads to the insistence on consensus; consensus invariably requires compromise, that often so disembowels the original policy proposal that the objective is lost. Many of the issues that must be dealt with are so contentious that consensus is just not possible given the competing and indeed conflicting interests of the various groups in the society. After the consultations have been held the government must be bold enough to take the tough decisions that it considers necessary and it must get on with it, and claim the credit for their success or be prepared to accept the blame for their failure.

PARADIGM SHIFT NEEDED

Of course it is easy for me to say these things now because I am no longer in office. I am no longer buffeted by the political and other constraints of that office. I am not seeking office either and so I don’t I am not hostage to the need to say popular things. But my 4 years in office and the severity of the financial crisis that exposed our nakedness convinced me that a paradigm shift is needed. It is by no means an easy path, it will involve serious political risk it requires not only strong political leadership, but a strong political mandate unencumbered by the size of its Parliamentary majority, unencumbered by the imminence of the next election and unencumbered by questions of credibility, as I encountered because of that extradition matter.

The government wasted in my view its best opportunity right after the last election which it won with a 2 to 1 majority, its mandate was fresh, it’s mandate was strong. What has to be contemplated now is what should have been implemented a year ago, but it’s not too late.

ADVICE FOR PRIME MINISTER SIMPSON-MILLER

Prime Minister Simpson-Miller still has an opportunity of being a Prime Minister that changed the fortunes of this country or one who simply let it slide. The risks are enormous but the possibilities are real and the alternatives are bizarre. If Uganda, Ethiopia just to name 2 countries can recover from their wars and famine; If Guyana once the rump of the English Speaking Caribbean can become the fastest growing economy in CARICOM, the fastest growing economy in CARICOM, Jamaica can make it if we try, if we do what needs to be done.

I am empathise with the government, I have been there, I know the hard choices that confront it. I empathise with the Prime Minister in particular because after all the papers have been read, after the meetings are over, after the numbers crunchers have turned in their numbers, after the Advisors have tendered their advice, which are, which is sometimes confusing and conflicting. After all of that, she has the lonely job of providing the leadership and direction to navigate our way through these turbulent waters. It is with her that the buck stops. She has to hold the hand of the Finance Minister who has stewardship of the economic program, she has to shield him from the naysayers and the faint hearted even within her Cabinet and even within her Party, because no Finance Minister especially in these tough times, no Finance Minister can succeed without the unqualified support and confidence of the Prime Minister.

The Opposition will be breathing down her neck that’s what Oppositions are for. She breathed down my neck.

Some of her own will say to her, we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t, is better we don’t; I say to her don’t listen to them. Her adoring supporters will say, but you say you love the poor, I say to her turn on your charm nobody does it better than you. Because if we don’t get it right, they themselves will become only poorer. It is indeed crunch time and I suggest that there is a compelling need for us to crunch the time and crunch whatever else needs to be crunched to give ourselves perhaps, the last chance. God Bless you.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “BRUCE GOLDING’S FIRST PUBLIC SPEECH IN OVER A YEAR – KEY QUOTES

  1. Noel Richards

    It’s the right time for Bruce Golding to reemerge. His mistakes as PM were not fatal, just debilitating. We all know the main one, but one of the least discussed was the public’s perception of arrogance that the Administration probably wanted interpreted as confidence, not from the PM, but from one member in particular who I knew as a youngster growing up in Jamaica. We knew one another even though we were not friends. In a post to one of Mark Wignall’s columns just after the PNP’s regaining office, I told him that Golding has a future in politics in Jamaica if he still wants to pursue it and that I give the PNP until the middle to late 2013 to decide if they can still handle the severe heat in the kitchen. I believe they won’t be able to since they have nothing to offer other than the IMF/World Bank/IDB funding programs. Don’t believe the North-South Highway hype, the Rare Earth metals PR stunt, nor the Dry Dock dream.
    Should Mr. Golding choose to assume his prior role with the JLP, it will be for the best, as he will give Andrew Holness a chance to breathe and learn through a full Administration as a senior member of Government, then reassuming the role of leader in due course, if he shows himself ready at that time. I wouldn’t worry about external concerns or the PNP’s inevitable attacks re Coke, there are more important fish to fry.
    The JLP has a golden opportunity to take Jamaica down an entirely new path that can not only distinguish it in no uncertain terms from the empty shell that is the PNP, but will also set Jamaica on a path in which it can realize its true potential. I believe the JLP realizes that the best way to make its members lives better off financially is to build the Jamaican economy so that Jamaicans do not have to depend on Government, it’s in the methods, modes, tactics and most importantly, strategy, that I see it lacking.
    We may soon get the chance to see if they have learned from the recent past and will be smart enough to seize a mostly new direction.

  2. Brian

    As far as I’m concern he just another politician running his mouth that has help to create the problem Jamaica is in, but act as if he knows the solution, but failed to solve the problem when he was in a position to make meaning full improvement.

    I’m tired of politicians; they are parasite feeding off the resources of the Country.

    • Noel Richards

      I don’t blame you for being tired of politicians or career politicians, you have a multitude of reasons for feeling that way. The problem is that we will have to either persuade them to do what is in the best interests of Jamaica, or we ourselves take the reins of leadership. We need them to see that they are neither Servants nor Masters, they are Partners. What they do to Jamaica, good and bad, affects them and theirs, even if they are wealthy.
      In any case, it will take the very Partisan Political System we dislike to get to the point where we can see progress. Golding appears to have the right general idea, he seems to see that Jamaicans, including the Private Sector, need to be able to earn for themselves, not depend on the GOJ.
      In time the Partisan Political System will evolve into a more Direct Democracy, but only after Jamaica becomes a true Republic, not the one that has been proposed. Jamaica needs to become a Republic in order to have true Separation of Powers, the issue shouldn’t be about who is Head of State. Democracy sounds nice, but one person, one vote does not in and of itself make a country function properly for its citizens. Plebiscites and Recalls must be a part of the system. Issues like the Constitution, the Caribbean Court of Justice and other major decisions should have the approval of the general populace. Obviously, that populace must be informed and educated enough to make good decisions. We will see where this all goes.

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