PNP firm un­der Phillips

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Ian Boyne is a vet­eran jour­nal­ist work­ing with the Ja­maica In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and ian­boyne1@ya­hoo.com.

PETER PHILLIPS could have been dealt a bet­ter hand than he has to­day play­ing his po­lit­i­cal cards at the Na­tional Arena. He could ex­pe­ri­ence the rhetor­i­cal flour­ish of lash­ing a Gov­ern­ment with in­fla­tion out of con­trol, un­em­ploy­ment spi­ralling, eco­nomic de­cline, schools in Septem­ber chaos, a health cri­sis, and a scan­dal that elic­its out­rage.

The Firearm Li­cens­ing Au­thor­ity scan­dal could have been handy, ex­cept, un­hap­pily for Phillips, that scan­dal showed up in a pre­vi­ous Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP) regime. Aud­ley Shaw’s stag­ger­ing phone bills could also qual­ify as a good hand — ex­cept that ex­trav­a­gant phone bills (though of a lesser mag­ni­tude) also fea­tured in a for­mer PNP ad­min­is­tra­tion. Shucks! But there’s one card he can draw with some rel­ish — the crime card.

That ‘bad card’ that the crim­i­nals have drawn on this en­tire so­ci­ety has pro­vided the op­po­si­tion leader with enough am­mu­ni­tion to blow up his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents’ boast that the Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) is a bet­ter guardian of our se­cu­rity. Apart from that mi­nus­cule part of Ja­maica where there is our only zone of spe­cial oper­a­tions, Ja­maicans dare not sleep with their doors open un­der this ad­min­is­tra­tion.

After talk­ing for months about cre­at­ing zones where crim­i­nals would be sep­a­rated from com­mu­ni­ties and then com­ing to Par­lia­ment with a bill that was rushed through, the prime min­is­ter de­layed fur­ther be­fore nam­ing our first zone — and then in an area which, it turns out, had only seven mur­ders for the year, not the 54 the prime min­is­ter was mis­ad­vised about. Since then, mur­ders have been con­tin­u­ing out­side that small zone, and right there in that same par­ish of crime-in­fested St James. Yet the prime min­is­ter has de­clared no other zone, and we have no in­di­ca­tion when he will — or whether he will. Crim­i­nals are now think­ing it’s busi­ness as usual. Phillips has some­thing to go to town about to­day.

He won’t miss that op­por­tu­nity. It doesn’t mat­ter that he might not have the magic bul­let for crime. When you are in op­po­si­tion, it is enough to rail and rant against those who are in gov­ern­ment. We will just as­sume you have the an­swers and surely would do bet­ter. But don’t take that away from Phillips to­day, for a man must rinse the dirty linen he finds.

LIT­TLE FOD­DER FOR PHILLIPS

It would have been much bet­ter for the for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter if he could point to eco­nomic de­cline, in­creas­ing poverty, and eco­nomic hope­less­ness un­der the JLP. But the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF) pro­gramme that he ob­served with re­li­gious de­vo­tion is be­ing fol­lowed with equal zealotry by the Hol­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion.

With bad-luck tim­ing for Phillips (Did he not con­sult any of the In­dian as­trologers?), the IMF held its end-of-visit press con­fer­ence on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, where it is­sued a san­guine as­sess­ment of the Ja­maican econ­omy un­der Phillips’ po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­saries.

“Ja­maica’s eco­nomic pro­gramme con­tin­ues to de­liver strong re­sults, sup­port­ing high con­fi­dence and in­creas­ing job cre­ation. All quan­ti­ta­tive per­for­mance cri­te­ria and struc­tural bench­marks at end-June 2017 were met. The cen­tral Gov­ern­ment’s pri­mary bal­ance sur­plus ex­ceeded the pro­gramme tar­get by a healthy mar­gin, mainly from buoy­ant cor­po­rate in­come tax. Non­bor­rowed in­ter­na­tional re­serves also over­per­formed, and in­fla­tion is an­chored within the Bank of Ja­maica’s tar­get of four to six per cent.” Good re­port card for the Hol­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The IMF was not fin­ished: “The Ja­maican econ­omy is re­bound­ing de­spite the im­pact of weather swings in 2017. Growth has been pos­i­tive for nine con­sec­u­tive quar­ters, with strong per­for­mances, es­pe­cially in tourism, con­struc­tion, and man­u­fac­tur­ing.” Usu­ally, job­less growth is a prob­lem in con­tem­po­rary cap­i­tal­ist growth. But not so in this case, de­priv­ing Phillips of a po­ten­tially po­tent crit­i­cism of the JLP’s growth model.

“Un­em­ploy­ment reached 12.2 per cent in April 2017, a sev­enyear low, along with a sus­tained ex­pan­sion in the labour force.” Phillips won’t have as much fod­der to­day for histri­on­ics and dem­a­goguery. He will have to bal­ance the de­mands of the mo­ment for raw politics and rab­ble-rous­ing — which he can’t to­tally ig­nore —with the im­per­a­tive of rais­ing the bar of na­tional dis­course. There are those who are look­ing to that from Peter Phillips. And he is em­i­nently ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing.

Peter Phillips de­serves to take that plat­form to­day as leader of the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party

(PNP). There is no­body in that party more qual­i­fied, more in­tel­lec­tu­ally pre­pared and so­phis­ti­cated, and more ex­pe­ri­enced for lead­er­ship. No one is fit to cred­i­bly chal­lenge him at this time. He has con­ducted him­self hon­ourably dur­ing the ten­ure of the for­mer leader of the party, Por­tia Simp­son Miller, wisely re­fus­ing to de­mean her or to un­der­mine her, as some oth­ers have done. Peter Phillips has paid his dues, and to­day when he rises to give his first pres­i­den­tial ad­dress at a party con­fer­ence, Com­rades will rightly hon­our him in ex­ul­tant ju­bi­la­tion.

Peter Bunting has played his cards well. He is no po­lit­i­cal fool. He clev­erly did not chal­lenge Por­tia for the lead­er­ship and won’t chal­lenge Phillips now. Time is on his side. While Phillip Paulwell is strong within the party and es­pe­cially in the pow­er­ful Re­gion Three, he would not have the na­tional ap­peal of Bunting. Phillip has been dam­aged over the years with a suc­ces­sion of what the press has la­belled scan­dals. Whether they are gen­uine scan­dals or not, that is the wide­spread pub­lic per­cep­tion.

Bunting, though, with his wealth, af­fa­ble, pleas­ant per­son­al­ity, and po­lit­i­cal sagac­ity will be for­mi­da­ble in the fu­ture. I ex­pect him to give Phillips all his sup­port and to prove a valu­able mem­ber of the team. In the mean­time, he will be build­ing his base to trounce Paulwell when the time comes. De­spite the ageist non­sense

against Phillips, the party leader is more avant-garde and sharper than many in their thir­ties. They are no match for him.

The PNP is in good and firm hands un­der Peter Phillips. With his en­vi­able and im­pres­sive record as fi­nance min­is­ter, lead­ing the heavy lift­ing in chang­ing Ja­maica’s eco­nomic course, Phillips has gained the con­fi­dence of the mon­eyed classes and Ja­maica’s elite. He is highly favoured by this news­pa­per and is re­spected in me­dia gen­er­ally. The busi­ness class and Ja­maica’s power bro­kers trust Peter Phillips, and if Hol­ness skids, they would eas­ily dump him for Phillips. Phillips has a track record with them. That’s why he is the best man to lead the PNP at this time.

UP AGAINST AN­DREW’S AS­SETS

But Phillips has one ma­jor ob­sta­cle: An­drew Hol­ness. An­drew’s ma­jor as­set is not his eco­nomic man­age­ment skills or his cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, strong as those are. It is his char­ac­ter and per­son­al­ity. His emo­tional in­tel­li­gence. An­drew’s emo­tional ma­tu­rity, his abil­ity to take crit­i­cism with­out har­bour­ing mal­ice, his ea­ger­ness to lis­ten, and his re­spect for civil so­ci­ety make him a hardy op­po­nent. Hol­ness is not an ar­ro­gant, inse­cure leader. This is an enor­mous strength in politics that can lead to self-delu­sion. An­drew would not be leader of the JLP had he not known how to give and take and to bro­ker com­pro­mises.

So An­drew Hol­ness is not likely

to out­rage peo­ple. He is con­cil­ia­tory to the point of be­ing in­de­ci­sive. (On the is­sue of crime, he is frus­trat­ingly so.) But there is one ma­jor vac­uum that Peter Phillips is most suited to fill, and he must use the op­por­tu­nity to do so to­day. He must ar­tic­u­late a clear vi­sion for Ja­maica. He must go be­yond An­drew Hol­ness’ nar­rowly economistic pro­gramme. He must ar­tic­u­late a vi­sion of build­ing cit­i­zens; of build­ing a peo­ple with a sense of com­mon pur­pose; a sense of work­ing for some­thing larger than them­selves.

Peter has the in­tel­lec­tual depth and the Nor­man Man­leyian ro­bust­ness to ar­tic­u­late for us a vi­sion of a New Ja­maica. A vi­sion of our bet­ter selves. Ja­maica is lack­ing that sense of com­mon pur­pose. Eco­nomic growth alone can’t in­spire cit­i­zen­ship; only atom­istic in­di­vid­u­als. An up­dated ver­sion of money jin­gling in our pocket is empty and unin­spir­ing. With the two par­ties fol­low­ing the same eco­nomic pro­gramme, the dif­fer­ence, dear Peter, must be in the vi­sion of build­ing that New Ja­maica. Ar­tic­u­late that for us to­day. Give us some vi­sion, lest we per­ish. For we can’t live by eco­nomic growth (bread) alone.

He must ar­tic­u­late Nor­man Man­ley’s vi­sion, which is even more rel­e­vant in the 21 Cen­tury.

FILE PHO­TOS

Peter Phillips the dif­fi­cult task of com­pet­ing against Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness.

Peter Bunting (right), seen here with PNP Pres­i­dent and Op­po­si­tion Leader Peter Phillips, has sur­ren­dered, for now, his right to chal­lenge for the lead­er­ship of the party, per­haps wait­ing for the per­fect time.

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