One such side show I have heard being mentioned repeatedly is the fact that neither parties outlined in the manifesto how they plan to achieve the objectives outlined. For those who believe that there is some merit in this argument let me help by looking at the definition of manifesto. A manifesto is “a public written declaration of principles, policies, and objectives, especially one issued by a political movement or candidate”. So we should not be looking for a road map for implementation but rather in a forum such as the National Debates. However, the Commission incorrectly used questioners on the economic debates panel that do not understand the real issues about the economy, and in that way short changed the Jamaican people and the quality of that particular debate.
In comparing both manifestos, I think that in terms of substance the JLP’s manifesto gets the edge. With respect to how the manifesto looks the PNP’s gets the edge. Why do I say this? Well starting with the easy one first, the PNP’s manifesto has a lot of colour and pictures, while the JLP’s does not, and so just looks better. In terms of content though I believe the JLP’s had a lot more measurable objectives, and showed more creativity inn dealing with issues, and I think that this came out in the debates.
I will deal with some of the reasons, but outside of the economic growth and development, I think that the JLP dealt more comprehensively with the matter of corporate governance and justice. Certainly the two proposals I am most attracted to, in these areas, are (1) sharing power with the opposition; and (2) giving the Commissioner of Police greater powers. These two I think will provide the foundation for greater accountability of politicians and the police.
The following table is what I consider to be the key points in relation to economic development and growth. The list is by no means exhaustive but focuses on the areas I believe will have the greatest effect on economic development. As I have always maintained, however, development and growth depends a lot on the social policies put in place. For example, an efficient justice system and police force, public law and order, and quality education and ensuring that children do not roam the streets. Without these social problems being addressed the economic policies will not generate any benefits.
While there is the realization of both that the state needs to create the business environment for private sector growth, it is still evident that the interventionist role that our governments have played since independence, is present. This is caused mainly by the expectations from the electorate of a government that is going to act like parents.
Both parties have not adequately addressed Jamaica’s interface with the global markets, and no questions were asked on this in the debate. The fact is that the world market today is going through a liquidity crisis that is going to have a significant impact on Jamaica and it is necessary to know how a future Finance Minister will handle this. Already we have seen a 10% fall off in tourism for the region and exports will also be affected. We have also seen where the five year variable rate instrument issued in July was 20 basis points more than the seven year issued in June. Whichever party forms the government on August 28th, the fiscal accounts are going to be a challenge and we can expect growth of about 1.5% - 2% this year, which is half of the projections. It was therefore a missed opportunity in the debate to bring out these issues, as knowing the flavour of our political rallies I really do not expect these issues to be discussed.