It seems a lot longer than 100 days since Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader Andrew Holness was sworn in as Prime Minister – March 3 – after defeating the governing People’s National Party (PNP).
Holness has declared innovation,bold and transformation as key to his government’s ambitions. Not forgetting “prosperity” which became the buzz word during and since the general election campaign.
Swift decisions in areas such as education (auxiliary fees cut, 6th form growth), housing (NHT reform) and economy (upping the tax relief threshold) has generated much discussion both home and in the diaspora.
Holness has been saying the right things to the public during interviews and speeches since coming to power. Let us hope the appropriate action follows.
Elsewhere, his Cabinet ministers are constantly in the media spotlight saying a lot too. Some might feel they are saying far too much – too soon. The likes of Ed Bartlett (Minister of Tourism), Desmond McKenzie (Local Government) and Robert Montague (National Security) are prime examples.
McKenzie vows to clean up local government parish councils’ irregularities. Given that all 13 local parish councils are governed by the PNP are McKenzie’s motives genuine or just plain politicking?
Is McKenzie on a mission to discredit the PNP-led parish councils ahead of upcoming local government elections?
Ruel Reid (Education, Youth & Information) has been pilloried for his some of awkward press conferences. But give the man – seconded Principal of Jamaica College – some slack as he is new to front-line politics. Hopefully he will improve.
At 82, Transport and Mining Minister Mike Henry is displaying a passion for his portfolio that would shame anyone half his age and (thankfully) is keen to get the passenger railways operational again.
For a politician who felt frozen out of the front line politics by his own party leadership, since 2011, Henry’s come back has been remarkable.
One of Holness’ earliest decisions was the setting up of a group called the Economic Growth Council led by Jamaican/Canadian billionaire Michael Lee Chin. Still not sure of the council’s role.
Let us hope Lee-Chin also concentrates on improving the service/cut the admin costs at his local financial institution – National Commercial Bank.
I do question the setting of the super department at the Office Prime Minister that covers elements of Agriculture, Economic Growth and Job Creation, Environment, Works, plus Housing. Along with a plethora of Agencies.
Why did Holness take the Port Authority from the Transport Ministry?
You get the feeling Holness is micro-managing these areas as he has little faith in some of the Ministers without Portfolios based in his office.
However, the little I have seen and heard from ministers such as Andrew Wheatley, Floyd Green and Kamina Johnson-Smith has been impressive. Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange is in her element as Sports and Culture Minister.
Holness had promised to declare his financial records by 31 March 2016 but has yet to do so. The delay may harm his good natured reputation with some members of the public.
My main disappointment so far has been the state bodies appointments of numerous individuals with JLP in their political DNA. These appointees including former MPs, losing candidates at previous elections, donors and so called die hards. (The previous PNP did likewise when they were in power).
All that these merry-go-round appointments do is to stifle business continuity and prevents any chance of developing the organisations to their true potential.
E.g. Danville Walker – former JLP election candidate, ex – Customs Supremo & Director of Elections and currently Managing Editor of the Jamaican Observer – is now chairman or board member of state bodies such as
- Caymanas Track Limited (CTL) (horseracing),
- National Environment and Planning Agency,
- Registrar General’s Department,
- Trade Board, and
- Jamaica Customs.
Understandably Walker has used his paper and interviews elsewhere to defend his appointments. But should a senior newspaper person have oversight of such critical state bodies? Can the Jamaica Observer be relied on to be objective in covering these bodies?
Holness could consider delegating the recruitment of such high level volunteers to an independent body. So that such vacancies are made accessible to the wider public and not restricted to the regular chosen few affiliated to party politics.
Finally, it was refreshing to see a Jamaican Prime Minister face a tough one-on-one tv interview with a top local journalist – Deon Jackson-Miller. Such a frank interaction early into Holness’ government is good for all stakeholders.