SECTORAL PRESENTATION 2008-2009 BY THE HON. JAMES ROBERTSON, MP MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO IN THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER


Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a humbling experience as I rise to speak in this Honourable House not only as a second term Member of Parliament, and first time Cabinet Minister, but at a time when the people of Jamaica have embraced and voted for a change. They have voted for a team committed to, and leading the charge to bring about authentic change and real advancement to our beloved nation. Under the sagacious, strong and effective leadership of the Chief Servant and Prime Minister, the Honourable Bruce Golding, every Jamaican now has a credible reason to HOPE. Mr. Speaker, what a relief to have a Prime Minister – a Driver who knows where he and his passengers are going!
Before I get into the details of my presentation, there are a number of very special people in my life to whom I would like to extend my gratitude. To Charlene, my wife, my true love for close to 26 years, and soon to be 19 years of marriage. Mina and Ava, my two beautiful daughters, who are a daily treat to me. My ever present and committed father, Ishmael, and my astute and loving mother, Hermina, who to this day continue to be there for me. Mr. Speaker, to my West St. Thomas family I say thank you. It is your overwhelming faith, trust and confidence that have allowed me to be your servant for a second time. I look forward to continuously serving you as Member of Parliament to the best of my ability. To my six Councilors, my Constituency Executive and Management Committee I say thank you for your diligence, commitment and unbreakable team work in seeking to make West St. Thomas arguably one of the best represented constituencies in this land. Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the people of West St. Thomas of my team’s commitment to their social and economic advancement. Several job-creating projects have already gotten off the ground. Several more are to come. The people would also notice in short order the commencement of several community projects aimed at improving communities, making daily life less stressful and allowing you as St. Thomas citizens to be proud. I speak of projects that will be funded by the Constituency Development Fund, a revolutionary initiative on the part of this government that finally makes MPs better equipped and better able to represent their constituents by being more responsive to their basic needs. I would also like to thank Dr. the Hon. Carlton Davis, OJ, and Ambassador Douglas Saunders, the former and current Cabinet Secretaries, respectively, Mrs. Patricia Sinclair McCalla, Permanent Secretary, OPM, and the staff of the Cabinet Office/OPM, for all their assistance in carrying out my duties as Minister.
Thanks also to the Clerk of the House, the orderlies and the other members of her team.
2.0 HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES IN JAMAICAMr. Speaker, before outlining the approach I am taking in using development as the vehicle for national forward movement I want to remind the House of some of the historical precedents that focused on development in this country.
Mr. Speaker, one of the distinct shortcomings in public policy formulation and development in Jamaica under successive administrations has been the lack of a sustained overall long-term national planning process. This is not to say that there has not been recognition of the need for a holistic, structured and integrated planning framework. However, invariably timely implementation never seemed to have represented an integral feature of governance and the development planning process. It can therefore be argued that whilst different administrations have brought varied approaches to the process of public policy formulation and development, the absence of institutional mechanisms that foster longer term perspectives that transcend across a change of administration represents a distinct shortcoming that needs to be addressed.
2.1 The Pre-Independence EraFrom as far back as 1946 the then government of the day recognized that the development process required a structured planning framework and it embarked upon a Ten Year Plan of Development for Jamaica, 1946-56. That plan was later revised in 1951 (and referred to by many as the World Bank 1952-62 Plan). Since that time Jamaica has had a series of Five-Year Development Plans, the last one undertaken being for the period 1990-1995. This was followed by the development of the National Industrial Policy and a series of 3-year roll-over Medium Term Policy Frameworks (MTF) which articulated the Government’s socio-economic policies, anchored in the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP).
2.2 The 1963-68 Five-Year Independence PlanBut, Mr. Speaker, just how successful has this national planning process been? The Most Honourable Edward Seaga pointed out in his article in the Sunday Gleaner of June 3, 2007 entitled “Planning for What?” that of the 10 development plans that have been prepared and published, only one of these plans was ever fully implemented – that was the 1963-68 Five-Year Independence Plan of the Jamaica Labour Party Government led by the Right Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante. This development plan, Mr. Speaker, was prepared under the policy leadership of the then Minister of Development and Welfare, the Hon. Edward Seaga.
It is interesting to note that although my esteemed colleagues on the other side of this Honourable House like to claim that they care more for the poor, a World Bank 1993 Comparative Study of Five Small Open Economics edited by Ronald Findlay and Stanislaw Wellisz states in relation to the 1963-68 Five-Year Independence Plan that [Quote] “.this development plan, masterminded by the JLP leader who was to become Prime Minister in 1980, was clearly designed to establish a new role for the government as an intervener on behalf of the poorer classes, a regulator of the private sector, and the prime mover in stimulating growth. The foundation was being laid for what might be called the “political management” of the economy.” [End Quote]
Mr. Speaker, I will have more to say on the role that Mr. Seaga played later on in this presentation.
I should also point out that the timely implementation of the Five-Year Independence Plan was effected in no small measure by the work of Jamaica’s greatest promoter of industrialization and development. Of course I speak of none other than the late great Robert “Bob” Lightbourne. And Mr. Speaker, I proudly represent a constituency within the parish that produced this stalwart! His work in promoting industry in the 1960’s led to Jamaica’s greatest era economically. A time when we ranked above Singapore and other newly emerging developing countries in industrial output and were among the fastest growing economies in the world. It was a time distinguished by unprecedented vision – under a JLP administration!
Building on the intellectual legacy of the great St. Lucian economist, Sir Arthur Lewis, Bob Lightbourne gave practical life to the ideas of “industrialization by invitation,” as expounded by Lewis, while creating the conditions to nurture local industry and creating the environment that led to the birth and growth of local companies that are now household names in Jamaica and abroad.
2.3 The Manley Era, 1972-1980Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note that whilst former Prime Minister Michael Manley, and the other democratic socialist members of his Cabinet of the 1970s were great advocates of planning, they did not have a plan for the first six years of his administration. It was not until 1978 when his Democratic Socialism Plan was prepared. Any objective assessment of this plan suggests that it was ill-conceived.
Mr. Speaker, the 1993 World Bank study to which I have already referred had this to say about the Manley Government’s attempts to restructure the country along democratic socialist lines [Quote] “.It adopted a costly social welfare programme and nationalized a number of enterprises, causing the flight of financial and human capital. To balance its growing budget, the government imposed a bauxite levy that accelerated the decline of the industry. The legacy of this period was a heavily indebted economy, saddled with inefficient government enterprises and shackled by import, price, and credit controls.” [End Quote].
2.4 The JLP Administration, 1980-1989Mr. Speaker, it was left to the Government of the Jamaica Labour Party that came into power in 1980, under the leadership of the Most Hon. Edward Seaga to revitalize the economy and to put it once again on a sound financial footing. Mr. Seaga, himself, points out in his June 2007 article that he did not present a plan in the 1980s until 1988. The reason for this he explained is [Quote] “.because of the need to steer the country through a mid-term international depression, the worst in 50 years, which would have destroyed any plan, anyway. After overcoming that period and restoring the economy to a path of growth, it was time to prepare the Social Well-Being Plan and the Going for Growth Plan for the economy. These were tabled in 1988. But they never saw the light of day [although] all the financing was identified, because the government changed in 1989.” [End Quote]
Those few words do not do justice, however, to the important contribution that has been made over the years by Edward Seaga in terms of public policy formulation and institutional building in this country. He has left a tremendous legacy for this nation in the development of lasting institutions and legislation across the entire governance structure. There is much that we could learn from this man. For example, it is instructive to note that his concept of joined up government linked relevant state agencies and ministries spanning both social and economic spheres, because he recognized the fact that both were necessary to have true development.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to propose that this Parliament find a fitting tribute to pay to this iconic Jamaican whose work promoted development both institutionally and in the Jamaicanisation of many foreign-owned industries. It would be appropriate when so many entities and industries that were once majority-owned by Jamaicans are again foreign-owned, to reflect on the work of this great man and pay him due respect.
It is a concept that our Prime Minister, Bruce Golding understands and believes in and is taking to a “higher level”.
2.5 The PNP Administration, 1989-2007 Mr. Speaker, returning to an assessment of the historical precedents that focused on development planning in this country, in relation to the period from 1989-2007, under successive PNP administrations, major public policy initiatives for the most part were vested in stand-alone projects or programmes. It can be argued that none of these initiatives were sufficiently holistic and therefore, would be considered less effective in successfully addressing and assuring sustainability in dealing with the developmental challenges faced by the nation.
The National Industrial Policy, an initiative of the Patterson Administration of the 1990s represented the only recent attempt, since the Five Year Plans of the 1960s to the 1980s, to bring a degree of coordination and integration to public policy addressing developmental issues. Consultation in developing this plan was quite widespread. However, this seemingly worthwhile initiative to coordinate and integrate several and, in many instances, separate and discrete policy initiatives again failed. That outcome could have been attributed to the fact that the implementation arrangements and support mechanisms were not satisfactorily synchronistic, thereby proving to be less than complementary and effective from the vantage point of socio-economic impact.
Dr. Omar Davies, the former Minister of Finance and Planning, for over fourteen years, adopted a policy of presenting rolling three-year macro-economic projections in each of his annual Budget Presentations. The idea, Mr. Speaker, was to focus on year one almost exclusively. The following year, the second year projections will become year one, year three will become year two, and a new year three will be prepared.
But what was the reality, Mr. Speaker? The reality was that every year Dr. Davies presented these projections, but none of these targets were ever met – they were simply flights of fantasy. Year after year we were promised economic growth of 3 to 3.5 percent and fiscal discipline, but what was the outcome, Mr. Speaker? Dismal growth and fiscal indiscipline!
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