Fear­ful fu­ture of the PNP

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Ed­ward Seaga Ed­ward Seaga is a for­mer prime min­is­ter. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

GEN­ERAL SECRETARYDESIGNATE of the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP), Ju­lian Robin­son, made the fol­low­ing state­ment in The Sun­day Gleaner, Oc­to­ber 16, 2016: “We are a demo­cratic so­cial­ist party, and within the con­text of, in 2016, be­ing in an In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund agree­ment, we have to de­fine what that stands for. What does it mean to be a mem­ber of the PNP?”

This is a cu­ri­ous state­ment, be­cause I thought that the PNP had aban­doned so­cial­ism in the light of the state­ment by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Michael Man­ley to Com­rades present at a meet­ing at the UWI af­ter the Ber­lin Wall was torn down. At that meet­ing, he told the Com­rades, “So­cial­ism is dead!”

Robin­son, who must have been young at the time, 26 years ago, might not have been aware of this shat­ter­ing state­ment.

I be­lieve that a very far-reach­ing state­ment like that from the max­i­mum leader would not have been ig­nored by the party. Hence, I am puz­zled that the PNP still con­sid­ers it­self a so­cial­ist party, al­beit a demo­cratic vari­a­tion. It would be en­light­en­ing to know when, and why, that re­ver­sal was taken. And so would oth­ers, es­pe­cially the busi­ness com­mu­nity.


Mem­o­ries run deep about what hap­pened in the pe­riod of demo­cratic so­cial­ism prac­tised by the PNP gov­ern­ment of the 1970s. Con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rated so badly in the 1970s that: The Bank of Ja­maica had to print money for the coun­try to sur­vive af­ter the trea­sury was drained. Michael Man­ley used most of the in­creased baux­ite levy to fi­nance free ed­u­ca­tion, which was not free at all be­cause the schools and par­ents had to cover the gap. This left lit­tle to fi­nance sev­eral other so­cial make-work projects that were an­nounced by Gov­ern­ment un­der the ‘so­cial­ism is love’ ex­pla­na­tion given to the peo­ple. Most of the schemes col­lapsed from lack of funds and peo­ple who wanted money, not work. Un­em­ploy­ment in­creased to a record 27 per cent, aided by the fall­out of the make-work projects.

IIIIWhen Ja­maicans saw what was hap­pen­ing, they con­verted their money to US dol­lars through banks and the black mar­ket and moved their sav­ings and other funds to US banks. Soon, the Bank of Ja­maica ran out of re­serves in for­eign ex­change, for the first time, and had to use funds set aside for pay­ing debt. The BOJ could not sup­ply the amount of for­eign ex­change to the banks, which were un­der pres­sure by busi­ness clients and oth­ers to pay bills for goods or­dered by com­pa­nies and to meet other de­mands for for­eign ex­change. In ad­di­tion, there was a grow­ing flight of cap­i­tal. This re­sulted in a se­vere re­duc­tion of im­ports of raw ma­te­ri­als and spare parts, clos­ing down fac­to­ries and in­creas­ing un­em­ploy­ment. Oil sup­plies were short, re­sult­ing in fre­quent black­outs and loss of fac­tory time. Im­ported food items were so short that ri­ots erupted at su­per­mar­kets when goods ar­rived. Small shops – 14,000 of them – ei­ther closed or kept one win­dow open mostly to sell aer­ated wa­ter, Foska Oats, and toi­let tis­sue. The dis­mal per­for­mance of the macroe­con­omy was the re­sult of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion over the pre­vi­ous eight years, 1972-1980, as re­vealed by the data­base pub­lished: The value of the to­tal pro­duc­tion of the econ­omy (gross do­mes­tic prod­uct) in 1980 was 17.5 per cent less than in 1972, af­ter de­creas­ing ev­ery year but one. In­fla­tion in­creased by 250 per cent, peak­ing at 49.4 per cent in 1978. While rev­enue re­mained al­most con­stant over the pe­riod, ex­pen­di­ture in­creased by 66 per cent. The bud­get deficit, as a con­se­quence, in­creased from 3.9 per cent to 17.5 per cent, one of, if not the high­est, of any coun­try not at war. The to­tal pub­lic debt, as a per­cent­age of GDP, in­creased nearly 500 per

IIIIIIIIIIIIGen­eral sec­re­tary-in-the-wings, Ju­lian Robin­son, speak­ing with re­porter Erica Virtue. In the back­ground is a por­trait of Michael Man­ley, who, ac­cord­ing to Ed­ward Seaga, dis­avowed so­cial­ism in the 1990s.

cent, creat­ing a crush­ing bur­den in debt ser­vice; The level of in­vest­ment col­lapsed by 40 per cent of GDP and sav­ings by 53 per cent. For­eign-ex­change re­serves were wiped out, plung­ing from pos­i­tive US$239 mil­lion to neg­a­tive US$549 mil­lion. I Eco­nomic growth was neg­a­tive in seven of the eight years and less than one per cent in the eighth year.


There was not a sin­gle bright light in the econ­omy over the eight wasted years. This was the one-of-a-kind global per­for­mance that led the World Bank pres­i­dent to de­clare to me that Ja­maica had the sec­ond-worst econ­omy in the world. (This could be com­pared with the view a decade be­fore that con­sid­ered Ja­maica the fastest-grow­ing de­vel­op­ing coun­try in the world in the late 1960s.) The pa­thetic per­for­mance was, in great part, be­cause of a fall­out in the pro­duc­tive sec­tors: agri­cul­ture, man­u­fac­tur­ing, min­ing and con­struc­tion de­clined.

So­cial­ist gov­ern­ments op­er­ated by creat­ing fear in those who crit­i­cised them. A state of emer­gency was called in 1976. It was op­posed by the Spe­cial Branch Unit of the po­lice force and the

MI 5 of the Ja­maica De­fence Force, ac­cord­ing to the ev­i­dence given to a com­mis­sion of en­quiry in 1978. Both Spe­cial Branch and MI 5 are re­spon­si­ble for de­tect­ing antigov­ern­ment ac­tiv­ity. Spe­cial Branch was not asked to ad­vise. The head of Spe­cial Branch saw it for the first time in the press. The head of the MI 5, when asked, ad­vised that a state of emer­gency was not needed. It was a se­cret op­er­a­tion car­ried out between Man­ley and a small num­ber of po­lit­i­cally sup­port­ive po­lice of­fi­cers. More than 500 peo­ple were de­tained, most be­ing Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing can­di­dates, to stymie the po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion of the JLP in the elec­tion year of 1976.

Men were taken from their homes, leav­ing their fam­i­lies with­out bread­win­ners. Some were de­tained on blank orders given to the po­lice that were pro­vided by the Min­is­ter of Na­tional Se­cu­rity for use at their dis­cre­tion con­trary to the con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ment for the min­is­ter to sat­isfy him­self, which he did not do.

The state of emer­gency ended af­ter one year, June 1977, dur­ing which the PNP won a gen­eral elec­tion over the JLP, in De­cem­ber 1976, which saw many of its agents de­tained and the fear­some threats of detention driven into oth­ers.

Busi­nesses of JLP sup­port­ers were raided, and even some homes, af­ter mid­night, as wives and chil­dren were ter­ri­fied in their bed clothes. Churches were in­cluded. The Ro­man Catholic Church in Mon­tego Bay was sub­jected to search.

Gov­ern­ment wanted to cen­sor all writ­ten news ma­te­rial. The Gleaner re­fused to com­ply. The stock mar­ket had plum­meted un­til the price of one copy of The Gleaner cost more than one Gleaner share on the stock mar­ket.

By 1977, it was time to get out of the coun­try, many peo­ple felt. Trail­ers with per­sonal be­long­ings rolled off the hills and other lo­ca­tions to the wharves for ship­ping abroad. The equiv­a­lence of 25 per cent of all the peo­ple trained between 1977 and 1980 gave up on Ja­maica and mi­grated. It was the great­est mi­gra­tion of Ja­maicans, as thou­sands left for Amer­ica, Canada, and Eng­land.

In the mean­time, those three coun­tries that are Ja­maica’s ma­jor trad­ing part­ners be­came more and more con­cerned at Man­ley’s stri­dent, an­ti­im­pe­ri­al­ist rhetoric aimed at them. Trad­ing was re­duced as loans for fi­nanc­ing im­ports dried up. So, too, did aid from those coun­tries as a sign of their dis­ap­proval.

As those re­sources dried up, Man­ley tried to use his ide­o­log­i­cal part­ner, the Soviet Union, for aid and trade. Lit­tle did he know that he was not as pop­u­lar among the Soviet lead­er­ship as he thought.

The Sovi­ets re­fused to speak about fi­nan­cial aid. The Gov­ern­ment ac­tu­ally coun­selled him against car­ry­ing out any rev­o­lu­tion­ary ac­tion in Ja­maica be­cause it was a coun­try with a demo­cratic, twoparty sys­tem and a West­min­ster model of gov­ern­ment, and any at­tempt to top­ple these could re­sult in civil war. The Rus­sians did not want Ja­maica to be­come a client state of the Soviet Union be­cause they could not af­ford it.

The above in­for­ma­tion was pro­vided by a Soviet Em­bassy staff mem­ber who had de­fected. This brief out­line ought to be taken as a his­tor­i­cal ac­count of the im­pact of demo­cratic so­cial­ism in Ja­maica, which pro­duced the worst pe­riod in Ja­maica’s his­tory. Let us not fol­low up on that painful pe­riod. It would be strongly re­sisted.



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