Yesterday, (almost) all eyes were glued to television sets to catch the budget debate at Gordon House. I must say, that was probably the only time that CVM had in excess of 20k people watching their channel (absolutely no offense meant, but we all know that most people have cable and in any case, TVJ have di ‘farrin’ show dem). I was also impressed at the amount of people who were tuning in- I honestly thought that only a select few of my generation actually had a decent grasp of politics and were interested in the running of our country. Mind you, most of these people only served to bomb our timelines and newsfeeds with partisan, patty and Portia jokes. It’s a start though.
I found this budget debate to be extremely lackluster- and more of a campaigning speech than a budget debate. The PM didn’t delve into the actual budget, but instead took her time to play the blame game, thank Marva (her housekeeper) and recite the occasional Bible verse.
“A Kiss from Judas” LOL
Once Portia thanked everybody she ever encountered in her 67 years of life, she began to play the blame game. In short, she basically justified the fact in her 5+ months in office, she didn’t fulfill her promises because (and I ad lib here), “We had no idea that our economy was so bad.”
I just had to call B.S. on that. The then opposition would have been privy to the available funding and outstanding debts of the nation- so a poorly shaped economy would have been, or should have been, no surprise. Had the PNP planned accordingly, instead of spending time making up nice acronyms like JEEP and funding Prince Harry’s visit, they would have been able to meet some of their goals. Though a promise is a comfort to a fool- there is no justifying a promise broken.
She also stated that after the JLP’s four years in administration, the economy had declined significantly. I do think that those 67 years are starting to take a toll on her- she must have forgotten that the PNP had mismanaged our economy for the previous 18 years. She must have forgotten that the JLP was handed a country under serious economic disrepair and several clandestine agreements swept under a rug. Her claim was, “They broke it, now we have to fix it”, but sumn mussi really tek her head because she figet ‘bout her big big fren PJ…..hmmmm.
However she did take the time to pat herself on the back for coming up with this elaborate JEEP initiative. For those who have missed the last 5 months of horribly executed JEEP puns, it is Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme. You might recall how the JEEP initiative started with a fizzle. So far they claim to have provided 5,800 jobs, but what Portia failed to mention is the nature of these jobs. People on the JEEP programme are more or less given one-off jobs in public maintenance and waste management (ie. janitorial duties). Rumour has it that they are not signed to contracts either. An odd job cannot be equated to employment.
What I found ironic was her accusation that members of the JLP were posing as ‘champions of the poor’. Funny, don’t it?
*See the PNP manifestohere.
Kudos on removing the GCT on electricity for residential consumers, but this move affects almost no one. Poor people bridge light. Rich people pull strings. Only members of the middle class pay electricity bills and they are the ones carrying the burden of a nation. Rough generalization here, but I’m sure you can appreciate it.
And suddenly, the PNP is in full support of renewable energy sources. They will singlehandedly revolutionize the way our country consumes energy! As if the JLP didn’t already do that.
Portia spoke about moving from ‘welfare to well-being to wealth creation’ several times but she didn’t say how. She promised modernizing infrastructure, breaking NHT tax (which I must admit sounds feasible- and I applaud her) and starting the second phase of JEEP (albeit missing a tire). But, this is exactly what I meant about this budget presentation being more like campaigning speech- vague promises and no solutions!
No mention was made RE book tax. Our dear PM always speaks about how education is the key to success, and she even acknowledges discrepancies in the educational system. However, she has made no move to lessen the tax on books. How is it that children from low income families are supposed to become educated if they can’t afford their basic materials? As a university student, my books average 10k a piece, now I can completely legitimize shouting and turning over tables.
I could go on for days preaching about the faults of the PNP- but let me not be too partisan. JLP has also made some bad decisions for our country- but playing Jamaican politics only boils down to a choice between two evils. Pick your poison.
*Don’t take my word for it, read the PM’s full prepared speech here.
*This blog post was written before the closing of the budget debates on June 6, 2012.