This month contributing writer, Delano Seiveright, reflects on 2006 and the prospects for Jamaica in 2007.
Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Resolution 2K7…Jamaica

2007 is now upon us and already resolutions are on track to being broken. Would it not be interesting to know the number of Jamaicans who put Jamaica first in their New Year resolutions? Not very many I think.

2007 will most likely be Jamaica’s most important in its political history, rivaling that of 1980. Elections are widely expected this year barring Prime Minister Simpson-Miller goes to the bitter end, which is no later than March 2008. However, most political analysts expect general elections before October 2007. With Prime Minister Simpson-Miller at the helm though it is anyone’s guess. Her performance in the top job over the last 9 months has turned out to be a catastrophe. In 9 short months the country was further shoved down a seemingly bottomless pit. Let us take a very brief look at her performance thus far.

CEMENT CRISIS

Upon assuming office Jamaica was faced with a shortage of cement. The cement crisis grew out of the recall, by the monopoly Caribbean Cement Company, of tens of thousands of tons of faulty cement from the local market. The recall went on to worsen the already short supply of cement from the cement company. Instead of acting decisively Simpson-Miller and her party of jesters dilly-dallied to the detriment of the entire country. The construction sector came to a virtual halt. As many as 300,000 Jamaicans were said to have been negatively affected by the stoppage of construction activity across the island. The ripple effects of the crisis were also felt across the island. Many construction workers and their families struggled to make ends meet. The nation’s economy also took a hell of a blow. According to the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) the cement crisis had brought about a 6.3% decline in the construction sector during the first quarter of 2006. The Financial Gleaner estimates that the cost of the crisis to the country at the time was over $100 million per day, a very conservative estimate for many industry players. During the height of the crisis the opposition and several quarters of media and civil society called for the resignation of the Minister responsible Phillip Paulwell. Simpson-Miller in her ham-fisted style did nothing and caused her cabinet to splinter into three factions.

PORTMORE TOLL/ SANDALS WHITEHOUSE

Close on the heels of the cement crisis came the Portmore toll road fiasco and even more drama for Sandals Whitehouse scandal. Her handling of both scandals to date leaves much to be desired. The thunderous voices of the Portmore community were rudely ignored. Today residents of Portmore have to contend with expensive tolls, very lengthy traffic delays and no real alternate route. All to drive on one of the shortest toll roads (just over a kilometre) in the world. The whole arrangement is by far a grave injustice. Of course the explosive Sandals Whitehouse scandal continues take more twist and turns than a hilly country road. The scandal came about due to a whopping US$41 million or J$2.7 billion overrun and evidence of a hotel plagued with a myriad of structural problems. The project was saddled with blatant mismanagement, cronyism and incompetence. The matter brought to the fore issues of accountability and good governance. The Prime Minister has as usual remained silent on the issue.

TRACE OUT

In the midst of the many scandals and crises popping up all over the country Prime Minister Simpson Miller sought to publicly trace or cuss out everyone. She blasted the media, opposition and concerned citizens. The Jamaican populace via mass media was treated to frequently embarrasing accounts and displays of the Prime Minister’s belligerent broad sides. Her address at the PNP’s annual conference last year more than highlighted her vitriolic style. Instead of laying out a comprehensive and far-reaching vision for the country the Prime Minister went on a rabble rousing rampage much to the visual embarrassment of many party members. Prime Minister Simpson Miller has also ratcheted up political tension in the country. Her frequently bellicose posture spells trouble for our beloved nation. Jamaica at this time and more than ever needs a Leader who can bring people together, not force them apart.

TRAFIGURA

When we though things could not get any worse the Trafigura affair came along. The Trafigura scandal is no doubt scandal mumma. The minute the details of the scandal hit the airwaves many of us were just lost for words. Even many senior members of the PNP lost their tongues. The whole country seemed to have stopped breathing. Trafigura, a wealthy multinational company headquartered in the Netherlands, contracted to lift and sell oil on behalf of Jamaica made three separate donations amounting to $31 million and in some quarters $37 million to the PNP. Incidentally, the donations were made prior to the PNP conference at the end of September 2006 and just before their contract with the government was up for renewal. We all know what transpired the days and weeks after the scandal broke. Minister Colin Campbell took one for the team and Prime Minister Simpson-Miller who is at the very centre of the scandal refused to do the honourable thing. We were also treated to the usual lawsuit threatening and arrogant posturing of several PNP officials. We were also told by the PM that the money will be returned. Further more we were given a free crash course into the sophisticated science of spinning by our nation’s foremost spin doctors i.e. Munroe, Boyne, Robinson et al. It was a Red October indeed. All in all the Trafigura scandal brought several matters to the fore. The foremost of which is that in regards to corruption the Simpson-Miller is no different from the Patterson regime. It was simply a continuation of the same old same old.

A GOVERNMENT IN CHAOS

It without a doubt that the Simpson-Miller administration is in shambles. It doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to figure that out. Jamaica in 2006 managed to muddle through with a terribly ineffective and absentee Prime Minister. A sign of the rudderless state of affairs is reflected in the call by a prominent UWI academic for Simpson-Miller to appoint a Deputy Prime Minister to handle the day-to-day affairs of government. Matters are made even worse by the fact that our Prime Minister just does not seem to have a clue as to what to do. This explains her frequent dodging of the media and debates. Instead she is hell bent on hugging, kissing and tracing her way throughout the remainder of her tenure.

CHANGE IS COMING

Thankfully this nightmare will and must come to an end. One would have to be either irrational, ignorant or awfully selfish to support the Simspson-Miller adminstration. Nine months is way more than enough to swallow and we should all brace for even more incompetence, corruption, tracing and chaos in the coming weeks and possible months. Jamaica is at the moment in desparate need for not only a change of government but also a change in the way we are governed. Mr. Bruce Golding has spoken extensively on the vision the JLP has for Jamaica. A vision that will catapult Jamaica into a new paradigm of prosperity, justice and good governance. Mr. Golding and his united team offer the best chance for Jamaica at this time. Not only is the team more youthful but also far more erudite, far more proficient and far more imaginative. The burst of energy that the upcoming JLP victory at the polls will give to Jamaica will most certainly propel Jamaica into a new age of development and transformation. Let us all see to it that good sense prevails whenever Jamaicans go to the polls soon. We should all make it a part of our New Year resolutions to see to it that as many persons around us understands that we are at a very critical political jucture and it is up to us to pull Jamaica into a direction with a bright future for us all. Don’t break that resolution.

* Please note that these opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Jamaicans.com

About the author

DelanoSeiveright