Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The clout of PM Simpson Miller

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller

Observer column published 9 November 2015 by Jean Lowrie-Chin

I believe that if Portia Simpson Miller had listened to herself more, and to others less, her administration could have accomplished much more.  Recalling her victory speech after she won the last General Elections, this column observed in our piece headlined “The people spoke for Portia” http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-people-spoke-for-Portia_10485594 : ‘one should never underestimate the political clout of that grassroots veteran Portia Simpson Miller…flashing her famous smile, and hugging her candidates one after the other, we saw a woman practised in the way of politics, hitting all the right notes ... She thanked among many, "Comrade PJ Patterson", her helper Marva and Andrew Holness who had called to congratulate her, saying that "he was very gracious"… The prime minister-designate appealed: "Work with us as we will be working with you. [There will be] consultation and dialogue... we will hide nothing from you. ...to all business persons, you have a Government that you can trust."’
We had a similar experience several years before when the PM’s handlers had refused to have her debate, but agreed to have her address the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.  At the conclusion of her speech, she received a standing ovation.
The Office of the Prime Minister website quotes PM Simpson Miller’s address at the swearing in of her Cabinet on January 6, 2016: “We must respect and include the people. We must exercise zero tolerance to corruption. We must work tirelessly to promote the rights, welfare and wellbeing of all Jamaicans …I am signaling today that this administration will take a zero tolerance approach to corruption, and that we will move quickly to strengthen the existing mechanisms to fight corruption, and will exercise our minds to finding new and innovative ways to stop the waste of public resources … I want to remind you that it is about the people of Jamaica, not about yourselves or a political party.”
Then I recall her coming off script and saying to her Cabinet, “Get to work now!” with a passion  that could not have been pretense. What has transpired since then reflects who took her seriously, who did not, and who could not.  Really, when are we going to ensure that the skill sets of a minister match the demands of the ministry?   
While we accept that former Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson had a heart for the people, clearly the systems put in place to ensure the proper running of our health sector were sadly wanting.  Has this ministry in particular and our Government in general, been hiring political friends who are ill-suited for the roles they are expected to play?  Is this why the Finance Minister may be experiencing push-back from his fellow Cabinet members when he tries to implement governance measures?
The transferring of Dr Ferguson to another ministry, without demanding immediate upgrading of the facilities in our public hospitals gives the public no comfort.  The sickening details of the audit must be addressed and the public must see the honourable PM, her new minister and the responsible officials touring health facilities.  This will give them far more credibility than the political campaign that they are currently conducting. I believe the Prime Minister cares – she must now take her own advice, and that of honest non-political Jamaicans, to do what is right for her country.

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