Don’t Forget

The logo for the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The logo for the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Editor’s note: This was written and first posted on October 27, 2012, after Mrs. Simpson Miller’s visit to Canada to mark 50 years of bi-lateral relations. The interview to which this piece refers was done by Mr. Cliff Hughes and Mr. George Davis on Nationwide News Network (NNN) on October 25, 2012. The country was just starting to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

*****

It’s funny.  The Prime Minister finally gives a live interview for the first time in [Lord knows how long…], and it’s on an afternoon when 70% of the country was without electricity.

“Don’t want to be political overseas…”, and so, almost affirming that very comment, Mrs. Simpson-Miller became political.  Without reiterating that the succeeding government had to deal with a recession, she stated that when she left government in 2007 unemployment was down, inflation was down, had investments going… As if to say that what she said in her statement during her visit to Canada had no merit once she was on Jamaican soil; that the veracity of that comment is directly proportional to the insight of the audience to whom it was directed.  In other words, (sarcastically speaking, of course), we’re idiots.

“…but I’m not going to—overseas—speak like I would speak to you now”  So are there two sides to Mrs. Simpson-Miller?  I don’t want to think so.  And does Mrs. Simpson-Miller believe that Jamaica is Las Vegas?  That what is said in a radio interview in Jamaica, stays in Jamaica?  “Don’t want to be political overseas…” – so it’s okay to be political at home?  Is this what Jamaicans deserve?

So, to place all that has been said in that interview into a wider context, I respectfully and humbly say this: Don’t forget.

Mrs. Simpson-Miller reminded Mr. Hughes and Mr. Davis in that interview that the former administration entered into an agreement with the IMF and failed to carry through with it.  Well, I suppose it’s an open secret that one of the reasons the IMF agreement was jeopardised was the public sector wage bill.  According to a Jamaica Observer report on June 13, 2011, in an address on a political platform in Granville St. James Mrs. Simpson-Miller said, “When workers are not happy, the country cannot move forward. No country can succeed and prosper if workers do not feel that they are rewarded for their hard work”.  The Observer reported that then Opposition Leader (now Prime Minister) Portia Simpson-Miller “accused the government of provoking public sector workers.”

Friends, don’t forget.

Three months later later, a Gleaner report on September 11, 2011 stated that “The seven per cent wage increase to public-sector workers has forced a revision of a key fiscal target…”  The report later stated:

 “Under the standby agreement with the IMF, Jamaica had agreed to freeze public-sector wages until the end of fiscal year 2012, including the J$30 billion of increases that would have been payable over five years.

However, under pressure to pay from public-sector unions, the Golding administration has decided to pay out J$9.2 billion of outstanding increases [in 2011].

Fast forward to October 2011.  After raising concerns that the then government would again attempt to impose a wage freeze to fulfill its obligations under the IMF loan agreement, according to a Gleaner report on October 10, 2011, Mrs. Simpson-Miller said “…her Government will change how public sector workers are treated if elected.”

Well, in a Gleaner report seven months later – on May 25, 2012 – Dr. Phillips was reported as saying, “It cannot make sense to break into an empty shop, mek no sense to raid an empty cupboard. There is very little in the cupboard at this point in time,”.  This was during his 2012-2013 budget presentation in parliament.

Funny, because this sounds like what Mr. Audley Shaw, former Minister of Finance, said two years earlier (on October 21, 2010), “I have said it before and I’m going to say it again: we cannot make blood out of stone…”

What’s that again about changing how public sector workers are treated?

(Noticed the difference in tone in the headlines, though? Hmmm…)

Friends, don’t forget.