We agree with Prime Minister Bruce Golding on two points: First, his administration faces global economic conditions that are substantially worse than anything his predecessors had to confront during their 18 years in office.
Second, the People’s National Party can’t be proud of its achievements during a long tenure when the world economy, but for the occasional hiccup, enjoyed sustained and robust growth, while Jamaica barely sputtered along. Jamaica’s growth in the last decade averaged below one per cent.
But it is not enough for Mr Golding to get into a whingeing splutter about his burdens, and the maladroitness of the former PNP administration in the management of the economy. There is perhaps value in Mr Golding looking over his shoulders, but not in a manner to be totally transfixed on the past.
Which is why we see little value in Mr Golding’s challenge of the PNP to a debate of its legacy, and what the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) now faces and has accomplished in two years? So, what if Mr Golding proved that the PNP government was incompetent? Many people would see that merely as reinforcement, rather than breaking new ground.
Such a debate, therefore, would, at best, be an energy-sapping distraction from the real problems facing Jamaica, and the obligation of the Government to get about fixing them. At the extreme, Mr Golding’s debate, were it to happen, would in the election off-season reopen and fester Jamaica’s notorious political schism. We are all too aware of the potential consequence of this.
Our advice to Mr Golding, then, is to get on with his job, as difficult as we know it is. And he might start as though the previous two years hardly existed and that his party has only just won the elections.
In that regard, he should treat his speech next Sunday to the public session of the JLP’s annual conference as though it was his inaugural address as prime minister of Jamaica. And having given himself this three-year sub term, he should assume that he will get no more, yet have a full agenda to fulfil.
Accept the challenge
If he gets himself into such a frame of mind and accepts the challenge, Mr Golding would, perforce, be a man in a hurry, faced with decisions requiring urgent action. Sound policy advice will be important.
The prime minister should scour Jamaica, and elsewhere, for the best available talent – there are many Jamaicans at home and abroad who are willing to help – to be part of a “council of wise persons” to help in the formulation of the immediate and long-term initiatives on the economy and social issues.
Mr. Golding should also identify and empower people who are charged with implementing these programmes, from trimming the public sector to engaging the private sector, the labour movement and the Opposition in the development of a social contract. But it is critical for his programme to be coherent, and the effort transparent, setting out clearly how burdens are to be shared.
Very important, too, there has to be certitude on Mr Golding’s part that what he is doing is good for Jamaica, knowing full well that there is a price for doing what is right.