Jamaica’s Defunct Prime Minister

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The Prime Minister made her “much anticipated contribution” to the 2015-16 budget debate. It was her first opportunity to address a country reeling from a major public health crisis at Riverton, a country reeling from an absence of accountability at government agencies, a country where hope is fast disappearing and a country where over half of the citizens therein would give up their citizenship. Put simply, the moment was pregnant with possibilities.

It was a real chance for Portia Simpson Miller to give life to the words spoken during her inauguration, but in her now characteristic attitude Jamaica’s first woman Prime Minister missed the mark. The country was left with platitudes, expressions of empathy and empty words. The speech failed every anticipation and expectation. It was telling that young people responding to a Gleaner question to evaluate the Prime Minister found it to be “a depressing speech.” But more than that, we must confront the reality that Mrs. Simpson Miller has nothing left to offer us as a country; she hasn’t for a long time. Jamaica is operating with a defunct Prime Minister.

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The Prime Minister began by rightly condemning the violence being committed against our children, and outlining her government’s response to the scourge of sexual violence. But beyond that commendable step, what did the Prime Minister offer us? I submit that it was much of the same. It was not a presentation which seemed to grasp the urgency of now. That reality is all the more disappointing because of who Portia Simpson Miller is.

 

It’s an accepted truth in Jamaican politics that the Prime Minister always has a finger on the pulse of the nation. That is, she understands the mood and aspirations of a vast segment of the Jamaican population. However, despite this commendable political trait, Simpson Miller has failed to inspire the kind of confidence and hope necessary to take a country from austerity to growth. Instead, the Prime Minister comes across as a mere puppet, rehashing platitudes and washed up lines about Jamaica being poised to turn the corner. By themselves these things may have been fine; after all rhetoric is a useful tool in governance. The problem is that the Jamaican population is a bit jaded. It seems we’ve been here, read this script and played this part. We have nothing to show for it.

 

For the better part of 13 years P.J. Patterson promised us that Jamaica was poised to take off, and we have still not left the terminal building. Robert Pickersgill promised us pothole free roads by 2003, you can judge the outcome of that for yourself. Fast forward to the present day and Phillip Paulwell is the master of grand announcements and little substance, while Portia Simpson Miller promises us a corner is coming and we’ll soon turn it. I say this to say, these are the same themes, the same untruths that were fed to us 5, 10 and 15 years ago. The mouthpiece is the only difference. The sooner we accept that reality as a people, the sooner we can agree that Mrs. Simpson Miller has nothing left to offer us as a leader. She is a defunct Prime Minister.

Jamaica doesn’t need a mouthpiece. We don’t need recycled ideas. Our country requires vision, accountability and leadership. Mrs. Simpson Miller has proven herself unable to deliver. She should take the pension she’s entitled to and give us a fighting chance with a functioning Prime Minister.

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