Columns

Silence of the IMF lambs

Franklin Johnston

Friday, November 09, 2012    

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THIS is the time for heroes. The IMF is no small thing. Greatness blooms in adversity. Who will true valour see? Sam Sharpe would not exist without slavery, nor Nanny without the Redcoats. Portia is at the helm now and she can be like the rest, or be the best. She was not born to it, but she is marked for greatness. Jonah could not escape his fate. Busta, Bogle, caught in the maelstrom of the times, rose to the occasion. They did not vanquish darkness, but they shone. Heroes are accidents; none planned or created the context of heroism. Andrew had the makings, but proved a slip. Will Portia rise to the moment? History beckons!

Some nutter asked why I keep calling on Portia and not the IMF. "Well, Sir, here's why!" The IMF is about saving states. Portia is about saving people! There are rich states with masses of poor people, but no rich masses in a poor state. To the IMF, people are "taxable capacity", but Portia "check fa we". IMF directors chose their agents to do their job, we chose Portia to do ours. So, Sir, you go ahead and call on the IMF. Self-belief is crucial to prosperity.

I was in Revolution Square as Fidel asked, "Who believed in the cause before it happened? A few hands on the platform: "Who believed in the revolution after?" A million hands in the square. Our people are like sheep, our revolution is about prosperity and we need a leader. There is an eerie silence across the land; no embargo and still no news of an IMF deal. Not a leak, not a ripple in the water. Are we in the eye of the storm? I was in a meeting when Sandy hit us; she was awesome. The eye came over and perfect calm as we left for home; the onslaught returned soon after. The IMF will tell us nothing new as for 40 years we have been in hock. Last year the JLP lapped its tail and gave the election to an unprepared PNP. This is a defining issue for the PNP as for the Parliament. Will they show courage? In Greece they riot at the nasty medicine; will we riot too? What of Cabinet's work-out plans? Will we wait on the IMF to set the regimen then we bawl "'ow dem oppress we?" My God, déjà vu!

We move toward a harsh denouement as in our hearts "we dun kno se ef we want gud we nose haffi run". This is not the IMF but a prescription for a country living beyond its means. Past Cabinets diluted the dosage, so we are still poorly. Will this one do right? FX drifts, exports and reserves fall, signalling more trouble ahead. "Peter, what are the 10 painful things we must do to survive?" Ten things! We can take it. Which ones are in our power, which not? For example: "cut the price of oil" is not in our power, but "cut food imports by 50 per cent" and "set up food farms, labour camps and food banks in each parish" are. Are we afraid to try new things? What heroic stories to tell our grandchildren? "We took charge of our lives, grew our own food and stunned farmers in the EU, New Zealand and Georgia. New York was going third world with blackouts and storm damage but we were going first world. We battled in St Catherine to grow rice; attacked by wild hogs in Portland, we grew cassava and the Blue Mountain Corps planted a million coffee seedlings. We ate grass-fed goat flesh and beef. We ate breadfruit-fed jerk pork. We waged war against food imports; we exported. We are heroes!"

Greece, Portugal and Ireland complain that the IMF underestimated the impact of spending cuts and tax hikes in their bailout, and the IMF admits it was wrong in Greece and that "fiscal consolidation" could push Greece to the wall. We are there so these examples mean little to us. Tendai Biti presented Zimbabwe's budget (US$3.8b) for fiscal 2013 and projects growth of nine per cent, but the IMF says five per cent. Imagine Zimbabwe within two years of abject failure aligns with the US dollar and expects minimum five per cent growth? We laughed at Zimbabwe. Who laughs now? Do not dismiss PM Seaga's peg plan lightly, though my old proposal to re-denominate at $10 to US$1 is superior. Don't let me tell you about Barbados again.

This angst takes its toll. Is the IMF sovereign here? This interregnum, the ennui is depressing. Portia must "man-up". Elisha said, "Lord why me? I have no words to lead."

God said, "Nonsense, I will give you words." Miss P, you were formed for this - embrace it! As we go about our chores, we know our state can't assure our safety. People are turning to God, not from a sense of duty to the Creator, but as insurance. We must work hard and smart, live large, talk strong, build our land. Sista P, lead us to prosperity, even if it is through "the valley of the shadow of death". We spent 50 years looking for short cuts. Let's face the pain.This is a time for heroes.

The Bible is correct about the last days - every day is someone's last. The British are mired in grief. Two weeks ago austerity protests blocked cities. They have no IMF, just a Cabinet determined not to become a Greece. This means high taxes, 300,000 public jobs to go and GB£10 billion in welfare cuts. Firemen, teachers, nurses, business people are no lambs going silently to the slaughter. We copy consumption from abroad, but not their activism. How do nations prosper? Everything cannot be a priority, so the UK has pit toilets and the USA some of the finest in stainless steel; are they bothered? No! Choose the key things, leave the rest to God. We cannot keep doing the populist things and expect to hit long-term goals of peace and prosperity. Public order and discipline are foundations of prosperity and leaders must make unpopular decisions as you don't go downhill to success. Pray God he sends a leader!

Persistent poverty makes us different from our neighbours, and after Audley the IMF will ensure every loophole is closed. The IMF, once an enemy, is now our only source of facts. The diagnosis of 40 years ago is valid and the cure the same. We are import junkies and must export or kick the habit. IMF watched us squirm and beg last year, they 'fly the gate' then we ignored them. We lost their trust. No more IMF men want to lose their jobs because they trusted us. No gentleman's handshake, but belt and braces, tough conditions. We lost our reputation last year; it hurts and will haunt us into the future! Let us now take the path we have avoided for years and climb the mountain of prosperity. Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education.

franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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