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IMF solution: Greece or grease?

Barbara Gloudon

Friday, January 11, 2013    

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WHAT will happen if the Cabinet comes out of the retreat this weekend with none of the solutions which sections of the media, the private sector, the Opposition and the social media fraternity of letters to the editor are demanding?

What if the Government signs on to an agreement, the terms of which are so onerous that the people refuse to accept them? What then?

This matter of the IMF and us has become a nightmare which must be giving sleepless nights to the prime minister and others charged with leadership of the nation. One gets the impression that the only way for sure relief which some people want is for the prime minister to sign on the dotted line for whatever the Fund is requiring in exchange for their financial support. Whether or not it pleases all the Jamaican people, not just a particular section of the nation, is of no real importance, apparently. Just sign the darned thing and let the good times roll. Just what kind of good times we could possibly have in a time like this is another matter.

“Wherever we tun, macca gwine jook wi”. Yuh don’t have to take a linguistics course at Mona to get the drift. As Tar Baby said to Brer Rabbit in one of the Southern USA folk stories: “If yuh pick me up is trouble, if you put me down is trouble.” Bredda Anansi would say the same thing.

The most confused of all among our people are the survivors of the IMF turmoil of the ’70s. I’ve heard people tell that they never expected in a lifetime to find themselves two decades later in a Jamaica which is engaged once again in controversy over the IMF.

“I thought those days were long dead and gone, for Michael Manley has gone. The Cold War is over... Mr PJ Patterson warned us to keep away from the IMF borrowing, but here we are again, inna deep preckeh”. Is this another case of “forward to yesterday?”

Those who can remember will recall the era of misinformation when the image of Jamaica was tarnished by campaigns which presented us in the worst possible light. The result was paranoia without end. It was easy to imagine then that we were being set up to be seen as the greatest losers in the entire world.

For a tourism destination, this was a fate worse than death. It took very little to scare visitors and our own diaspora away from our shores. Looking back on it, some survivors of those times are beginning to wonder if we really would go there again. (Don’t even think it!)

The flawed (if not dishonest) distortion of our current situation has us ranked worse than Greece, as a country scrabbling for survival. An editorial in the prestigious Chicago Tribune newspaper recently has set the alarms ringing. Why would a publication of such eminence present a mishmash of distortions when they could easily have checked to determine fiction from fact?

What was it meant to prove and who stands to gain? To date, we have not had any in-depth examination of the editorial, but financial analysts here have voiced their puzzlement at the distortion which it contains. Some are asking, is it just sloppy journalism or deliberate mischief?

This is a strange place, in case you haven’t realised it. How could a nation of our size been the toast of the world not even a full year ago, celebrated for its sportsmanship and its athletic prowess, only to be making the news now as some little backwater banana republic, poorer than the poorest in the world?

The Government of the day is taking the beating, with the prime minister getting the most blows of all. Somehow, I don’t think she is surprised. It is no secret that there are persons at home and abroad who will never accept her as a national leader.

Her stewardship is being weighed in the balance now more than ever, especially as she has refused to be drawn into revealing details of the IMF negotiations. The question is, should she be responding to the request for the people to know, or is there a bigger reason for delaying release of whatever information she has?

Until she speaks, apparently she must be prepared to be ridiculed and reviled. She has been taking it with stoicism, but you have to wonder, for how long?

The IMF’s hand could well be strengthened by this. It could not be easy to bargain when authority is being undermined. The retreat into which the Cabinet has gathered this weekend is being treated as a deadline for communicating with the public on the IMF situation, if nothing else. The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), through the lips of Mr Chris Zacca, regarded as one of its main voices, went on record on Wednesday laying out what appeared to be his non-negotiable demands of the PM.

THE list was delivered as the guest speaker’s address at a service club luncheon where Mr Zacca must have felt comfortable enough to “tun up de heat”. He told his audience what he was expecting to come out of the retreat — not just vague plans, but details. He laid it on very thick but no one seemed to have asked — what if the demands were not met? What next?

In the outtakes of the speech carried on radio that evening, reference was made to the rest of civil society and presumably their expected response. What did that mean? I would wish to interpret the reference as an opportunity for civilised discourse with a view to collaboration, producing effective outcomes. Nothing else could be of use to us at this time.

On a previous occasion when the PSOJ delivered a strong message to the Government of the day, under Mr Golding’s leadership in the time of the ‘Dudus’ crisis, it soon became apparent that collaboration, not confrontation, had to be the way to go... and it did.

Let there be not the slightest hint then that there is any alternative route in our present situation. Demonstrations and road blocks will help no one. When Mrs Simpson Miller emerges from the deliberations, a wide audience will want to hear what new she brings of the IMF’s place in our life from now on.

If it is bad news (which is what many are suspecting) we have to be prepared to deal with it. One thing is certain, the reality cannot be put off for long. No news is not going to be taken as good news.

The IMF has never been known to find sweet solutions in its dealing with others, but if we the people have to know, then we have to know. From then on, the challenge will belong to all of us — like it or not. Those who have been begging for the medicine bottle to be uncorked will know the time has come. Will we then spell the medication Greece or grease? Mek wi see nuh!

ARTS and CULTURE: Farewell and goodbye to noted sculptor Fitz Harrack who exited suddenly at his home in the early hours of Thursday morning. He was a great guy, an accomplished artist-teacher-friend, a Caribbean man, born in Grenada, settled here. With his wife, the incredibly talented ceramicist Norma Harrack, they enriched our arts scene.

gloudonb@yahoo.com

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