Caribbean reacts to PNP victory
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – The Caribbean has begun reacting to the victory of Portia Simpson-Miller, who led her People’s National Party (PNP) to a resounding victory in Thursday’s general election in Jamaica.
Former secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), Professor Norman Girvan said the immediate challenge for the government will be the economy and more specifically, the multi-billion dollar Stand By Agreement signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“The latest agreement has been off-track for most of the last year; the government has no choice but to re-establish it in order to access badly needed funds. The room to manoeuvre is limited. A fresh austerity package is a virtual certainty.
“The IMF will also demand credible assurances on policy and institutional reforms; that went awry under the previous government. The PNP government will strive to extract concessions to soften the blow, notably the jobs programme that was the centrepiece of its election manifesto,” Girvan said in a commentary on the election results.
“But the package as a whole is likely to be deflationary rather than growth-promoting. And getting sustainable growth remains the number one challenge for Jamaica. This will be the litmus test of the government’s economic performance.”
Girvan, who is also Professor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies, (UWI), also said that the victory of the new PNP government “will probably be welcomed in the region.
He said traditionally the PNP, unlike the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has always been seen as a supporter of the regional integration movement.
But he noted recent issues including Jamaica’s huge trade deficit with Trinidad and Tobago remains a “ festering sore on the body of CARICOM relations”.
He suggested that the region‘s two female prime ministers “should address this as a matter of priority”
He said Prime Minister Simpson-Miller has to find the political skills to take Jamaica fully into the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and wondered aloud as to whether “Jamaica’s 50th Independence anniversary party in August 2012 find British Privy Councillors still sitting in final judgement?
“After all, she is on record as wanting a Jamaican Queen. And speaking of Queens, when is Jamaica going to get rid of the ridiculous anachronism of having the British monarch as the Jamaican head of state?
“Does Mrs. Simpson-Miller’s declaration, made in the heat of an election debate, reflect a subconscious desire to be installed as the first President of the Republic of Jamaica; presiding triumphantly over the Independence celebrations? “
He said that while some may view this is as an unlikely scenario, the JLP has never been in support of an Executive Presidency.
“And I can’t quite imagine Mrs. Simpson-Miller as a purely ceremonial head, devoid of real power. Besides, ‘Sister P’, as she is affectionately known to her supporters, is already a queen in their eyes.
Still, who knows? Any scenario can play,” Girvan wrote.
Meanwhile, the ruling St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) says it is “elated about the PNP’s victory and its return to office under the leadership of incoming Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller.
“Like the St. Lucian people, the Jamaican people have spoken decisively in general elections and changed government in their search for a better days ahead; and, like St. Lucians, Jamaicans have placed their trust in a party that is tried and tested and has put bread, freedom and justice before fancy projects,” said the SLP’s general secretary Leo Clarke.
Clarke said Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony “who is until now the most recent Prime Minister to be sworn into office, will be keen to welcome his newest colleague, Prime Minister Simpson-Millar, when she takes office.”
He also said that “St. Lucia and Jamaica will both begin a new year with a new prime minister and a new cabinet of Ministers and both the SLP and the PNP are well equipped to provide the solutions necessary to return St. Lucia and Jamaica to the paths of progress their respective peoples have known under SLP and PNP administrations.”
The chairman of the ruling United National Congress (UNC) in Trinidad, Austin Jack Warner told the PNP leader that “the overwhelming majority with which you were elected signals the tremendous confidence that the people of Jamaica have reposed in you and your party.
“What is even more significant is that this confidence comes at a time when many challenges lie ahead, both in domestic and international affairs,” said Warner, who is also the Works Minister in the coalition People’s Partnership government in the twin island republic.
He said the conduct of the Jamaican people during the campaign and during the poll demonstrates “your nation’s commitment to the tenets of democracy and reflects the Caribbean’s proud heritage of installing governments that are elected by the people and for the people by peaceful means”.
For its part, the Congress of the People (COP) party, which is also a member of the coalition government in Trinidad and Tobago, said it “welcomes her to our group of CARICOM leaders.
“Like Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, Mrs. Simpson-Miller is viewed as a positive ‘agent of change’ and she now has the responsibility of leading her nation on the road to further progress and development.
“Jamaica has indeed turned a new page and the Congress of the People extends best wishes to all the elected Members of Parliament and offers its support to the new administration headed by Prime-Minister elect Mrs. Portia Simpson-Miller. We congratulate, as well, the people of Jamaica who exercised their franchise in an orderly expression of democracy,” the COP said.