As he marks his first celebration of Jamaica’s anniversary of Emancipation in the job of prime minister, Bruce Golding must be keenly aware of the challenges faced by his administration.
In the 10 months since his party’s election victory, Mr Golding has had to face the spiralling cost of oil and grain, that had exerted severe inflationary pressures on the Jamaican economy. And if that were not bad enough, the Government is also facing the fall-out from the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the uncertainty that this has caused in global financial markets, as well as the economies of Jamaica’s trading partners. It is as yet unclear the extent to which these will impact the country’s two major sources of foreign earnings – remittances from Jamaicans living abroad and tourism. Whatever the final outcomes, things, at this point, do not look particularly good.
Add to the externally fuelled problem, the potential crisis of confidence and the economic fall-out that seem certain to flow from the collapse of the so-called alternative investment schemes in which Jamaicans placed billions of dollars.
So, on the economic front, on this Emancipation Day, the administration finds itself between the proverbial rock and a hard place, from which it will demand creativity, skill and a strong dose of honesty with the Jamaican people, to extricate itself, without too many scars.
Yet, there is another crisis, perhaps even more fundamental, that haunts the Government and the country as a whole – that of national insecurity. Golding knows that a critical obligation of a state is to provide its citizens with a safe environment within which to get on with their lives.
Jamaicans have not for a long time enjoyed such an environment, as is emphasised by the nearly 2,000 homicides here each year, a murder rate of over 60 per 100,000 population and a cleared-up rate for homicides of not much over one-third. Criminals in Jamaica can act, it seems, with impunity. Which is why there is, we believe, broad public support for the package of anti-crime measures recently announced by Golding.
Indeed, as we have been pointing out in these columns, the initiatives by the prime minister, might not go far enough, but provide a platform from which it may be possible to restore a measure of normality in the society. It is important that they are allowed to work.
It that regard, Col Trevor MacMillan, the national security minister, wins our support for his declaration that the Government will not bend to critics of the initiatives, who want them abandoned even before they are implemented.
Indeed, Col MacMillan makes a point that people should hold before them; he lives in a society in which people are being killed and “we have to do something about it”. He respects the human rights of persons accused of crimes, but he equally respects the human rights of their victims.
These positions are not mutually exclusive. We are, therefore, not at odds with people who want greater emphasis on judicial reform, enhanced investigative skills in the constabulary and an improved social infrastructure. But, as these are being accomplished, we still have to face an immediate crisis of death and mayhem. Hopefully, as the measures work, next year will be better.