One of the primary problems facing Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is the cult of fanatical followers she has inspired. While this is understandable given her tremendous popular appeal, the negative side is that every criticism is perceived as a personal attack on Jamaica’s first woman Prime Minister by elitists who turn up their noses at her humble background and are determined to bring her down. As a result, many of her followers seem incapable of objective analysis of her pros and cons.
One can only hope that there is at least one person in the room with her who will stick up a hand to say when she is going wrong, but I’m starting to seriously doubt it.
A perfect example is the Prime Minister’s recent national broadcast. At a time of great uncertainty for the Jamaican economy, at a time when the whispers in the corridors of finance and business are that the year ahead will be very difficult for the country, at a time when Jamaicans are unsure what to expect from an IMF agreement, or what to expect if there is no agreement, the Prime Minister steered clear of actually talking about any of the real problems facing the country.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out what should be obvious to us all, and the Chicago Tribune for some reason, has now chosen to hold up Jamaica to the world as an example of failed policies and a dismal economic outlook, saying Jamaica provides an object lesson in
“the catastrophic effects of borrowing way too much, and the painful choices that follow. This saga, less familiar than Greece’s, is a lesson for lawmakers in the U.S. and elsewhere.”
“The Caribbean nation actually is in worse financial shape than Greece: Jamaica has more debt in relation to the size of its economy than any other
country. It pays more in interest than any other country. It has tried to restructure its loans to stretch them out over more years, at lower interest rates, with no success. Such a move would be risky for its already nervous lenders. So Jamaica is trying to wangle a bailout from a skeptical International Monetary Fund. Another deadline for a potential deal just came and went last week, though negotiations continue,” it goes on.
That’s the reality the Prime Minister seems determined to ignore. What Jamaica needs is not Pollyanna-type platitudes, and an exhortation that
“Our ancestors did not fight so gallantly; did not shed their blood for us to now capitulate to gloom and doom. No. We know, as Jimmy Cliff assured us, that we can get it if we really want. All we have to do is to try, try and try, and we will succeed at last.”
No, what Jamaica needs now is a hard, realistic look at our current situation, and a courageous start to the necessary conversation the country needs to have.
Maybe someone in the room could point that out to the Prime Minister the next time she and her people are crafting a national broadcast.