The Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) have been re-elected to govern under the watchful eye of an electorate seduced by promises of prosperity, but fed up with the crime, poverty and austerity imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
On February 25, the opposition party unseated the Popular National Party (PNP) of the now former Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, having taken 32 of the 63 House of Representatives seats.
Labour’s eighth victory was however the result of a poll with the highest abstention rate ever recorded; only 47.7% of 1.8 million on the register cast their votes.
Analysts consider that the low turnout sends a clear message to the new Prime Minister Andrew Holness about the extent of the disenchantment, mistrust and apathy reigning in the nation.
The 43 year-old politician assured victory over the conservative JLP by using a 10 point program with specific initiatives to stimulate economic growth and to increase foreign investment over the next five years.
To this end, there are proposals for the reform of Government, the multiplication of public-private partnerships, the creation of 250,000 new jobs, lower taxes and higher salaries, the creation of a new system of taxation that favors companies, and the promotion of finance for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Amongst others, there are plans for the regeneration of urban centers, the modernization of the water supply infrastructure, the computerization of state archives, the processing of company paperwork over the internet and the conversion of Jamaica into the Silicon Valley of the Caribbean.
Many question how Holness will adhere to this program in a nation with foreign debt equal to 113% of GDP, considered to be at risk of going into crisis according to the credit rating agency Moody’s.
His policies and initiatives must also comply with FMI demands on Kingston for drastic spending adjustments in return for loans to finance their public obligations and budgets.
A bilateral accord made in 2013 permits the FMI to lend the island – whose authorities in return have since had to introduce very unpopular measures -- 932,000,000 dollars over four years.
The Labour leader is taking over a nation with 1.1 million people living in poverty, a youth unemployment rate of 38% and very high crime rates.
Another challenge of his will be to keep afloat the light economic recovery that his predecessor Simpson-Miller managed to achieve, who from the opposing bench warned that she would not let the new Executive undo the progress made during the last few years.
Holness has in fact recognized that the election victory was by no means a ‘prize’ and that everything will be done to maintain responsible and transparent management to comply with each of his promises.
Many raised voices, however, say that the end result will be deeper national debt or lower State spending in other key areas.Share on FB Share on TT