PNP searching for ammo against Gov’t but coming up empty

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, April 16, 2017    

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Because we focused on the snake, we missed the scorpion. — Kenyan proverb

“We believe that it is best for the People’s National Party [PNP] to form the Government; therefore, anything that will lead or cause us to be in power is best for the PNP and best for the country.” No Jamaican citizen can afford to forget that most revealing utterance of the inner-inner sanctum of Norman Manley’s party. They were spoken by the PNP’s ‘Chairman for Life’ Robert “Bobby” Pickersgill.

In recent days our country was reminded that Pickersgill’s remarks were not a slip of the tongue. They match perfectly the deep-seated mantra and guiding philosophy of the present PNP. Founding president Norman Manley, doubtless, is quivering in his grave given the moribund state of his party.

For the last five weeks PNP spokespersons, declared affiliates, and several undercover political henchmen and women have been on a political rampage about the increases in property taxes that were announced by Finance Minister Audley Shaw. Some national mobilisation wannabes, like Dr Dayton Campbell, even mouthed street protests.

Recall this news story of March 31, 2017 carried by Loop Jamaica:

“Opposition MP [Member of Parliament] Dr Dayton Campbell is promising to “mobilise” Jamaicans if the Government doesn’t roll back the contentious adjustments to the property tax rates.

“ ‘It is simple,’ the St Ann North Western MP said in a Facebook post Friday. ‘Roll it back. If not, next week we will be mobilising the people.’ “

Evidently, the street protests have not materialised because there is still a sprinkling of thinkers in the PNP who realise that, on the whole, Jamaicans are no longer interested in a politics that is centred on getting attention through mechanisms of dislocation. Additionally, although Campbell enjoys deluding himself with imaginings of the past, the present PNP does not have the political muscle to stage effective national protests. I will discuss that at another time.

Last Tuesday, the Government, having listened to the concerns of the people, announced sizeable reductions in property taxes.

This newspaper reported, among other things:

“The Government yesterday announced reductions of 0.5 to 0.9 per cent in property tax rates, responding to public pressure that mushroomed after it announced the new rates several weeks ago.

“The finance minister said the new tax rate would either reduce or cause no change to the property tax rates of 448,860 of the 776,487 properties on roll. ‘This is a big increase from the 35.1 per cent who would have benefited based on the previously announced rates,’ Shaw said.

“He explained that with the new rates the average increase for residential properties will be 10 per cent, down from a 60 per cent average increase. Those who own farmlands will pay 40 per cent more, which the minister said was down from 93 per cent.” (

Jamaica Observer, Wedneday, April 12, 2017)

Manchester Central representative, Peter Bunting, spoke on behalf of the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Dr Peter Phillips was absent from Parliament. Is Phillips physically well?

Bunting’s tactic was consistent with the PNP’s Pickersgillian dictum. He, who not so long ago referred to political opponents as John Crows [

Nationwide News Network, July 13, 2015], posited that the Government’s entire tax package had been “shaped in sin and born in iniquity”. What a guy!

He wanted a one-month delay before the Bill was debated. Why? The answer is very straightforward. The PNP plans to hit the political pavement next month. They are a severely limited political arsenal. The Administration’s decision to announce significant reductions in property taxes last Tuesday has effectively left the PNP with even less in the way of political ammunition. For a party which is bereft of street currency they will be operating on near political vapour.

Bunting and the PNP are, doubtless, in a political tizzy, especially after they read these quotes in

The Gleaner of April 12, 2017: “I applaud the minister wholeheartedly for listening to the cry of the people and for actually practising good governance,” said Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association.

“I would expect that people would react positively to the changes and that they would be in a better position to manage the new tax obligations,” said Edwin Wint, president of the Realtors’ Association of Jamaica.

What credible message will the PNP take to the people on their campaign trail? The fact is, our economy, for the first time in over a decade, is growing in a meaningful way.

1. Inflation is at a 45-year low

“The Statistical Institute of Jamaica has reported that Jamaica’s inflation rate remains at a record low level, and was 1.7 per cent at the end of December.

“It’s the lowest inflation rate the country has seen in more than 45 years. According to the website Trading Economics, which analyses economic data from more than 196 countries, the inflation rate in Jamaica has averaged 9.79 per cent from 2002 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 26.49 per cent in August 2008, and a record low of 1.60 per cent in November 2016.” (

Jamaica Observer, January 18, 2017)

2. Business and consumer confidence are at all-time highs

“Business and consumer confidence remained more favourable in 2016 than at any time since the survey began 15 years ago, managing director of Market Research Services Don Anderson revealed this morning.

“The business confidence index stood at 142 in the fourth quarter of 2016 — October to December — while consumer confidence was 151.6 in the third and fourth quarters, just below the average of 151.7 during the year.

“Almost two-thirds of firms reported that it was a good time to expand their productive capacity to take advantage of future economic opportunities, and 53 per cent said they expected an improved economy during the quarter, up from 49 per cent.

“A majority of firms expected improvements in their financial prospects as well as growth in profits.” (

The Gleaner, January 17, 2017)

3. More people, especially the youth, are getting jobs

“Unemployment in Jamaica continues to decline, with the figure at 12.9 per cent as at July 2016, the lowest quarterly rate in five years.

“This is according to the latest labour force survey undertaken by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica.

“The rate for the July quarter was 0.2 per cent lower than the figure recorded for January 2015 and 0.8 per cent less than April 2016.

“The youth unemployment rate also saw a decline of 1.3 per cent to 29.6 per cent.

“Director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr Wayne Henry, said that the total number of employed persons as at July 2016 stood at 1,186,900 — an increase of 39,400 persons relative to July 2015. He said this represents the highest level of employment ever recorded for a single month.” (

Observer, November 17, 2016)

4. The Administration is meeting the requirements of the IMF

“Following their monthly meeting on March 14, the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) is reporting that Jamaica is on target to meet monitored quantitative performance criteria and indicative targets under the precautionary Stand-By Agreement signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in November 2016.

“The evaluation of Jamaica’s performance under the agreement was released in a recently published report by EPOC which outlined the economy’s progress at the end of January 2017.

“According to the report, Jamaica’s fiscal and monetary performance remains strong, with tax revenues surpassing expectations and Government expenditure being lower than anticipated.

“‘Given the trajectory, we believe that the GOJ will meet its quantitative targets and structural benchmarks at the end of March,’ observed Co-chair Keith Duncan.” (

Observer, March 28, 2017)

5. Job-creating projects are no longer a rarity

Headline: ‘PM breaks ground for BPO complex to employ 3,000’

“Prime Minister Andrew Holness broke ground on February 16, 2017 for the construction of a 150,000 sq ft business process outsourcing (BPO) space at the Portmore Informatics Park, in St Catherine, which is expected to employ 3,000 persons. The US$23-million project, being implemented by the Port Authority of Jamaica, is expected to be completed in one year.” (

Jamaica Information Service, February 16, 2016)

Headline: ‘ItelBPO to double operation, workforce by year end’

“Yoni Epstein’s home-grown business process outsourcing company, ItelBPO Smart Solutions, is looking to double its staff in 12 months.

“This will take its total number employed to 1,500. The commitment comes as the firm officially opened its fourth site in Jamaica recently.

“ItelBPO Smart Solutions added a new centre in Montego Bay, where it now operates two facilities. The others are in Kingston and The Bahamas. The company’s four facilities together span 50,000 square feet of working space, but Epstein says he will be expanding the existing facilities in Jamaica during 2017.” (

The Gleaner, January 11, 2017)

Headline: ‘BPO sector heating up...Sutherland Global Services promises to employ all graduates of new BPO degree’ (

Observer, February 17, 2017)

There are more projects:

o “For 2017/18 NHT will start construction on 5,737 housing solutions and complete 1,682. This will generate employment for approximately 3,800 people.” (

Jamaica Information Service, March 16, 2017)

• Headline: ‘New Trelawny Hotel to create 700 jobs’ (

Nationwide News Network, March 31, 2017)

• Headline: ‘Alpart upgrade to bring 800 more jobs’ (

Nationwide News Network, April 13, 2017)

• Headline: ‘8,000 BPO jobs this year’ (

Jamaica Observer, April 10, 2017)

• ‘Carib Cement to spend US$ 1.million to upgrade packaging plant’ (

The Gleaner, April 10, 2017)

And I could go on.

6. Development projects get off the ground

Headline: ‘Dredging of Kingston Harbour 50% complete’

“Work on the dredging of the access to the Kingston Harbour is now 50 per cent complete.

“This was disclosed by minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Dr Horace Chang during his contribution to the 2017/18 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

“The project, which is being undertaken by concessionaire, Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited, involves deepening of the entry channel and reinforcing the quay at Port Bustamante.

“This will facilitate access by the new Panamax vessels, which are passing through the region consequent on the recent expansion of the Panama Canal.” (

Jamaica Observer, April 7, 2017)

Also, headline: ‘Jamaica, China sign agreement to build a children’s hospital in MoBay’ (

Observer, January 9, 2017)

7. Tourism is on the rise

Headline: ‘Bartlett reports highest visitor arrival in July’ (

Observer, August 8, 2016)

“Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says the highest number of visitors for any July was recorded this year, amounting to 211,000.”

Headline: ‘Ja records over 5% increase in visitor arrivals, earnings’ (

Observer, November 7, 2016)

“Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett disclosed that Jamaica’s tourism sector has registered an increase of over five per cent in both visitor arrivals and gross foreign exchange earnings for the first nine months of 2016.

Headline: ‘J$100-m Dragon Bay Hotel redevelopment to get under way this year’ (

The Gleaner, January 8, 2017)

Headline: ‘TripAdvisor ranks Jamaica top Caribbean destination’ (

Observer, March 27, 2017)

“TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice has ranked Jamaica number 12 on the ‘World’s Best Destinations’ list and number one in the Caribbean.

“The awards rank Jamaica among destinations such as Bali, London, Paris and Rome.”

8. Agriculture is growing by leaps and bounds

Headline: ‘PIOJ reports growth in agriculture, forestry and fisheries’

“The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) has reported an estimated seven per cent growth in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries for the three months ending June 2016.

“According to newly appointed director general of the PIOJ, Wayne Henry, growth in the industries was due to a recorded increase of 13.5 per cent for agricultural crops and an increase of 6.7 per cent for animal farming.

“The increase in output for other agricultural crops reflected growth in six of the nine crop groups, led by legumes, up 36.6 per cent; fruits, up 31.6 per cent; vegetables, up 21.2 per cent; and condiments, up 16.0 per cent.

“Growth in animal farming was pushed by broiler meat production, up 7.2 per cent; and egg production, up 22.1 per cent.” (

Observer, August 30, 2016)

Inventions of phantoms stories will not help the PNP when they hit the road next month.

Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt. — Ghanaian proverb

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or





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