Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | February 3, 2013
Home : Commentary
EDITORIAL - PM must fine-tune her message
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller seems to have misunderstood our advice that she engage the country on the crisis facing the Jamaican economy and how this is to be resolved, including reaching a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The PM has, indeed, begun to talk about the issues, including at her town hall meeting last week at Brown's Town, St Ann. But it was in a voice that, in style and tone, was not naturally the prime minister's. She was not evocative.

Rightly, Mrs Simpson Miller told her St Ann audience that the long-awaited deal with the IMF, over which the country has contorted, won't, by itself, fix the problems. Jamaicans will have to pull together.

She added: "The Government must pursue a set of medium-term reforms for growth that will help to stabilise the macroeconomic situation and reduce anxiety."

What does this all mean?

Our point is that Mrs Simpson Miller doesn't have to prove that she is in command of the technical issues confronting the economy, or of the negotiations with the Fund. She understands them well enough. In any event, as head of the Government, the PM has access to public- and private-sector technicians.

MOBILISE THE MASSES

Mrs Simpson Miller's unique skill is her ability to communicate effectively with the majority of Jamaicans, which is a critical ingredient in mass mobilisation. And a mobilised society will lighten the individual burden, if that happens, of economic transformation.

The crux of Jamaica's crisis is its unmanageable debt of upwards of 140 per cent of GDP. We have, in tandem, to borrow less and grow the economy.

But achieving these goals will necessitate difficult actions. The public-sector wage bill has to be lowered in relation to the size of the economy; government workers will have to contribute to their pensions; more people must pay taxes; the State may have to provide fewer services at a higher cost.

What we expect from Mrs Simpson Miller, therefore, is to, in her inimitable style, talk to Jamaicans frankly about these matters, about why they are necessary and what will be the reward for enduring the pain. She has to strip the discourse of the jargon of technocrats to the realities of the people.

If the PM does try, or fails at this, Jamaica's prospect of economic recovery will be badly impaired.

Today, tens of millions of Americans engage in two great national pastimes: gouging on food and drink, and watching the Super Bowl.

The game will determine which team is supreme in that strange game of American football: that sport in which guys in tights grapple with each other, occasionally kick the ball, but mostly handle it, which its connoisseurs says is highly strategic.

Our issue here is the flap being caused by one of the television ads to be expensively aired during Super Bowl - the one for the carmaker Volkswagen in which white males and an Asian mimic an exaggerated Jamaican accent and talk Patois. The instigator is happy over his new car, so infuses dowdy colleagues with the Jamaican vibe.

Critics say it is racist, caricaturing black people as happy-go-lucky and lazy.

We say to the oversensitive, lighten up. We see it as the power of Jamaica's national brand and time on TV for which we couldn't pay. VW should rev up some more.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

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