The new Prime Minister of Jamaica needs time – will he get it ?

Magisterial recounts

The struggle continues.

The Eastern Hanover recount is being recounted after D.K. Duncan (PNP) wins by 12 votes, reversing Barrington Gray’s (JLP) 9 vote victory.

The counting of the 2 uncounted ballot boxes in South East St. Mary continues to be blocked by the JLP’s lawyers who want the JLP’s Tarn Peralto’s victory to stand.

The outcome of the recounts is desperately important to the newly installed JLP government. If one seat goes to the PNP, the JLP/PNP split will be 32- 28, or a 4 seat margin. If both seats go to the PNP, this means a 31-29 split, or a 2 seat majority for the JLP (effectively a margin of one, since the Speaker only votes to break a tie.)

What this would mean is the Prime Minister could not afford to alienate or discipline a single member of his parliamentary majority. The past few years saw a fairly constant dribble of caretakers, M.P.’s and Senators switching parties – the main effect then was an opportunity for point scoring on either side, but it had no real effect on the fortunes of either party.

Now, a single M.P. deciding to cross the floor would throw the ruling party and government into crisis.

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Prime Minister Golding and his Cabinet Ministers

In a slightly more perfect Jamaica, the Prime Minister would be able to rely on all his M.P.’s to stay in line and with the JLP, on the grounds that after 18 years in Opposition, no JLP M.P. would even be contemplating risking the JLP’s opportunity to govern.

In the Jamaica we live in, disaffected M.P.’s may well decide that revenge is sweeter than humble pie.

And who might be disaffected after only a few days in government? Well, Minister of Finance Audley Shaw might be somewhat miffed over all the excitement over Don Wehby, who is NOT a junior minister but a full cabinet minister with responsibilities in the Ministry of Finance. After all, what is it that Don Wehby expects to do in regard to the massive national debt that Audley Shaw is not expected to be able to do ? Press for a massive new tax package on citizens ? Press for massive cuts in spending ? Either route looks likely to lead to a super quick return to the polls and a JLP defeat.

What Prime Minister Golding needs is to win the outstanding seats AND for the Supreme Court to reinterpret the Constitution to permit U.S. passport holders to keep their seats in Parliament, at least for the time being.

What he needs is to win the upcoming Local Government elections with the sort of decisive majority that the JLP won these elections with in 2003.

What he needs is a workable majority in Parliament – 33-27 – for at least the next two years.

Without this, both the Prime Minister and the PNP are only counting the days, weeks and months to the next election.

Without this, Prime Minister Golding is looking at taking the blame for the PNP’s massive build-up of debt, by being able to do nothing about it.

Without this, Prime Minister Golding is hostage to the desires (no matter how ridiculous) and the requirements (no matter how unreasonable) of every member of his 31 member government (18 Cabinet Ministers, 11 Ministers of State, 2 Parliamentary Secretaries).

And, by the way, this is probably the most likely explanation for the ending of the weekly post Cabinet press briefings (now to take place on the following day, Tuesday). No disrespect for the press was probably intended, but certain political realities have to be attended to i.e. unpopular Cabinet decisions have to be communicated to other members of the government and private sector party supporters before these decisions become generally known. Egos will have to be soothed, promises given (and, where necessary, veiled threats made) BEFORE post-Cabinet press briefings take place, to ensure that they do not turn into debacles for the Government.

Interesting times.

In the meantime, we can look forward to the new appointments to Government Boards (crucial for cash cows such as the Urban Development Corporation– which is one of the biggest players in the construction industry- and the CHASE Fund – which is sitting on hundreds of millions of lottery proceeds).

We can look forward to Andrew Holness’ attempts to deal with the unholy bureaucracy that is the Ministry of Education.

We can look forward to Minister of Information, Culture, Youth, Sports and Gender Affairs Babsy Grange using her Ministry to do something for the crime plagued and poverty stricken residents of Spanish Town.

“Gone is the Ancient Glory: Spanish Town, Jamaica, 1534-2000” (James Robertson)

We can look forward to the new Government doing its best to change Jamaica’s course as far as is possible, given their political realities and the country’s economic realities.

As for the Opposition, it is truly a Government-in-waiting…….

Wondering about crime and the new National Security Minister Derrick Smith ? What’s on his plate is this : – Murders are up 23% over 2006.

This week’s “Woes of the Spanish Hotels”

(1) A section of the 1,800 room Fiesta Hotel under construction in Hanover collapsed (again) this week injuring two workers. The Prime Minister appointed Minister Without Portfolio Bobby Montague and State Minister Joseph Hibbert to investigate. This is the same hotel construction site where police allegedly shot a worker in February 2007 and his colleagues responded “with fire” and burned eleven vehicles……

Site of the Fiesta Hotel, Bamboo Bay, Hanover

(2) The Riu Ocho Rios is being sued by the owners of the neighbouring Mammee Bay Estate for dumping sewage and waste water into the sea, causing bathers to suffer both the sight of untreated waste on the beach and rashes from swimming in the water.

Anyone who has visited either the Riu Ocho Rios or Mammee Bay will know that if the water at Mammee Bay is polluted, the waters at the Riu Ocho Rios must also be polluted.
So, is it that the Riu discourages its guests from swimming in the sea, or is it that their guests think the waters of the Caribbean are naturally a slimy, stinking mess ?

The Riu Ocho Rios

The women – way too many of them…..

The big non-political story of the past couple of weeks is the news that female students now make up 82% of students at Mona Campus of the UWI. We’ve had the usual consternation and wringing of hands over young males deciding to skip higher education and go directly into the workforce. Heather Robinson challenges the new JLP government to increase male enrollment in tertiary education….. And yet another study of the problem is promised……

Elsa Leo-Rhynie
Elsa Leo-Rhynie, Professor of Gender and Development Studies at the UWI, and Pro Vice Chancellor

And, while much is made of this “Jamaican/Caribbean problem”, the New York Times carries an article about young American women who (by virtue of being more educated) make more money than the men they date.

We have forgotten that there used to be a consensus that women were disadvantaged compared to men in every aspect of adult life – jobs, opportunities, incomes, career choices, prospects for promotion, ability to plan their family, ability to live independently, ability to avoid poverty and abuse…. Women’s low status in society was supposed to encourage male abuse and to have a detrimental effect on the life chances of children whose mothers were poor and illiterate. There used to be a consensus that the only way for women to improve their status in society was to get an education….

“Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics” (bell hooks)

So generations of parents, teachers and community leaders encouraged girls to choose education and a job over early motherhood and dependence on a man. This strategy seems to have worked. Now we are hearing that the problem is that men aren’t getting educated at a rate that will allow them to maintain their traditional dominance over women in the workplace. Now male abuse is said to be the result of women’s improved status in society…….. Why am I not surprised ?

“The Color Purple” (Steven Spielberg)

“My Brilliant Career” (Gillian Armstrong)

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5 thoughts on “The new Prime Minister of Jamaica needs time – will he get it ?

  1. Well said as always! Have you noticed that the EOJ is running a couple of ads regarding enumeration? They say if you’re not on the list by the 28th September you won’t be able to vote if there is an election between now and May 2008. Is this a sign or something?

  2. I think the EOJ is just preparing for the local govt. elections which Portia had postponed and which are now due by December 2007. Bruce may postpone them again, if he wants.

  3. I just want to make another point. This debt is not to be blamed entirely on the PNP. Mr. Seaga borrowed money in the 1980s and left Jamaica in debt in 1989….the PNP just continued the trend….but didn’t they pay back the IMF so that we could begin to formulate our own policies?

  4. Lots of explanations are given for the debt (which is often used by governments to kick start growth).

    Problem with our debt is (1) it’s not clear to most people how the money was spent (2) how it is to be paid back if we don’t have massive growth – like 10% a year for next ten years……

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