Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Tuesday | February 19, 2013
Home : Commentary
The only real debate
By Gordon Robinson

We've approached the recent flurry of IMF 'news' with a degree of national myopia that's mind-blowing.

I find the political contentment with our 'achievement' of a conditional staff-level 'agreement' disturbing; and the national sighs of relief premature to the point of being silly. I also deem the single-minded focus on obtaining the IMF's approval for a short-term austerity whipping of an already beaten-up, depressed, and dejected Jamaican citizenry, all for the glory of payment of our external creditors, misplaced to the point of being a breach of Government's duty to its nationals.

The Master of Myopia, the Doyen of Diversion, wrote on Sunday:

"The only real debate which can exist vis--vis the Government's $16-billion tax package and debt-exchange programme is whether there is a viable alternative to an agreement with the IMF. Any other debate ... is totally pointless and hypocritical."

Like Michael Jordan, unbelievaBULL. Giving the impression of a sequestered juror peering at an issue through the roseate chimera of a cloud of intentional idealism, Ian 'Booklist' Boyne, failing, for the first time in living memory, to cite a weighty tome to support his apparent fluctuating sycophancy, has accepted Government's take-it-or-leave-it options. Based on his grand assessment, there's no thought required. How does one think without a book on the subject to absorb and regurgitate? He warbles on:

"I increasingly despair of public debate in Jamaica. It's too puerile, facile and obnoxiously partisan. It's usually an affront to reason and often to even common sense. We have been pressing the Government to quickly conclude a deal with the IMF. Every day, every week, every month."

Excuse me? Who's this "we"? I've been pointing out how disingenuous and inept Government has acted, especially with its constant chatter about unilateral timelines. I've exposed the fallacy in those timelines. But my opposition to this IMF deal, simpliciter, is on record. In particular, my insistence on exposing IMF priorities and explaining how they're in conflict with our Government's responsibilities has been frequent and consistent.

So, let this "puerile, facile and obnoxiously partisan" commentator open Ian Boring's eyes to the "only real debate". That debate postulates that the proposed IMF agreement is irrelevant to the solution to Jamaica's basic problem. Whether or not we obtain the IMF's precious approval will only affect the blood pressure of external creditors, but won't take us nearer to solving our problems.

Temporay relief

This ballyhooed IMF agreement is a short-term Band-Aid. The debate Jamaica needs to have right now is, how did we get here? What can we do to ensure we don't return in five years' time?

Do you know what it means to have a revolution?

And what it takes to make a solution?

Fighting against oppression;

battering down depression.

There's no doubt we arrived at this crossroads in our national lives on a train of persistent profligacy by a series of unrestricted, shameless Cabinets with no independent national signal-caller empowered to keep them on the right track or to make them accountable for overexpenditure or corrupt practices.

Which 'prior action' or 'IMF-imposed condition' in this touted cure-all ensures a change in that method of governance? What are the odds that as soon as the IMF whip is off, we'll quickly work towards finding ourselves right back at its door as we did in 2008 after saying, "Goodbye, ta-ta, au revoir" to the Big Bad Wolf in 1995. The last time we engaged the IMF, it took 20 years to say goodbye. Do we want that again?

Are you ready to stand up

and fight the right revolution?

Are you ready to stand up

and fight it just like soldiers?

Many are called, few are chosen ...

Got to fight the right fight in this time.

Legendary Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Emmanuel Brown, could teach Booklist Boyne a thing or three. Without fundamental constitutional reform limiting Government's spending powers; creating a new and different Parliament to represent citizens' interests instead of lusting after executive appointment; and insisting on full public debate on all new taxation measures before they can be imposed, we might as well not bother with this IMF agreement.

I've no doubt Peter Phillips is well-meaning when he's reported as accepting that Government must prove its commitment to sound economic decisions, but who will hold his feet to the fire? Haven't we heard this before?

Like a drug dealer with his customers, the IMF knows we're hooked. We'll be back. The dependency cycle will never be broken. THAT'S the real debate.

Peace and love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.

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