Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Golding's ebb and flow
KINDEST CUT... PM Golding at EXPOJA opening with private and public sector leaders (l-r) Greta Bogues, Chris Tufton, Omar Azan, Karl Samuda, Marlene Malahoo Forte and Vitus Evans.
Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer | 21 JUNE 2010
It was a bit like the dramatic construct of Mark Antony's speech at Caesar's funeral, as Bruce Golding tried to reason with his audience that in spite of his huge stumble, he was still a fit leader.
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears." Jamaica's exporters, manufacturers, and overseas buyers at the JMA-JEA's EXPO-JAMAICA were a tentative audience and in the first half of what turned out to be a lengthy address, the applause was almost non-existent.
"I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, but here I am to speak what I do know." Golding began his reasoning, not with recent events, but with the global recession of the past two years. He wanted us to know that it had been the worst in 75 years and resulted in declines in manufacturing and export last year. Yet he pointed out that the EXPO trade show had been oversubscribed, and that his government's revenue collection was improving.
He slightly touched the West Kingston nerve as he mentioned that it had overshadowed the news that Jamaica had reached IMF targets for March and that the Jamaican dollar had regained a good portion of the value it had lost over the past two years.
The plain-spoken JMA President Omar Azan had earlier referred to the high cost of electricity so Bruce Golding launched into a detailed explanation of the licence awarded them in 2002, "enforceable in a court of law" that guarantees them a tariff review every five years. The audience was still reticent, even as Golding announced that he was concluding talks on building a "floating storage and regasification unit" to help Jamaica increase our use of liquid natural gas (LNG) and reduce our dependence on oil.
Then I sensed a bit of relaxation in the audience as he began to speak the language of the manufacturer. Referring to the reduced budget resulting in lower interest rates on government paper, he said, "When you are not gobbling up money, you have to put it to work."
"When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept." Golding said that "the albatrosses" of Air Jamaica and the Clarendon Alumina Production company had been pulling the country down, as the funds lost could have been invested in better education, health and security. He said recent events were a "game changer" and that "you can't take out criminals and not put something in place."
Golding warned that when the Crime Bill is eventually passed, "it is not going to be able to satisfy all interest groups". He warned that "there is an inescapable friction between tackling endemic crime and the idealistic terms regarding human rights", referring to the tough laws that the USA, Britain and Canada had to pass after 9/11.
Golding said he had told his constituents in Tivoli that "the police are never going to leave. Get accustomed to it." As he outlined the Crime Act that would target criminal gangs, Golding felt the warmth of his audience and so he confided that many had been giving him advice. One friend told him, "Hang in there" to which he responded, "I am not hanging in there. I am going there!"
On my way home from the EXPO event on Thursday evening, I caught a report of a PNP meeting being addressed by Opposition spokesperson on security Peter Bunting, describing Golding's resolve to crush crime as "the mother of all flip-flops".
Golding's closing statement told us that he knew his political future was hanging in the balance: "Political fortunes will ebb and flow. That is the nature of politics. My commitment is to do what is necessary. I am at peace with myself. The rest is in your hands and in the hands of the Jamaican people." Mark Antony's audience had shed tears; Golding's gave him a standing ovation, but we have yet to see how Jamaica will respond.