Editorial

When former prime ministers write…

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

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People who have the uncanny ability to extricate themselves from their politically partisan views in assessing the work and worth of political opponents are specially blessed and must feel a joyous fulfillment in their souls.

With the blinders removed — assuming that they were there in the first place, because not everyone is a partisan — readers of the Jamaica Observer, and specifically the Sunday Observer, are indeed fortunate to have access to the vast knowledge of two former prime ministers – Messrs Edward Seaga and Bruce Golding.

In recent weeks, both men have written columns, which have clearly drawn from the depth of their experience and the totality of their times as leaders of the nation, to bring us rare insights that can come only from the handful of those anointed to walk the path of national leadership.

As we have seen in the past, when the incomparable Mr Michael Manley wrote a series of columns titled 'From the gallery' in the nascent Observer, last Sunday's pieces by Messrs Seaga and Golding were compelling in their importance as light posts for policy.

The common thread running through the writings of these three former prime ministers is the ability to give clarity to many of the issues with which they grappled in their time in office now that they are no longer encumbered by the constraints of official secrets legislation or the need for confidentiality or diplomacy.

For example, in his column last Sunday, Mr Seaga was able to dissect the dangers of the looming trade war threatened by United States President Donald Trump and to give solid reasons he should not go there, based on the pain and hurt caused by the trade war which launched the Great Depression in the US.

He also pointed to the potential damage to Jamaica's bauxite-alumina industry if promised tariffs are imposed in the manner proposed by Mr Trump. The former prime minister was able to anchor his arguments in the experiences with the industry during his 1980-89 Administration.

Mr Golding, who has been unearthing extraordinarily useful data on a range of subjects critical to national planning, last Sunday alerted the country to the need to prepare for the possibility of discovering oil and gas in commercial quantities.

While acknowledging that it is too early to start popping the champagne bottles — until we are sure that we can confirm oil and gas deposits — he quite correctly showed why we should begin preparatory arrangements to deal with the inevitable challenges of such an eventuality.

Mr Golding, with great mental agility and clarity, made the argument that having oil and gas is not an automatic path to prosperity, pointing to the tragic events in Venezuela which has the largest deposits and, closer home, the fallout in the economy of our sister Caricom nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

It might be too idealistic to hope that these two former prime ministers would be joined by Mr P J Patterson and Mrs Portia Simpson Miller in a quest to enlighten Jamaica in ways only they can.

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