POLITICAL differences between the Government and the Opposition over recent developments spilled over into yesterday’s much-anticipated signing of a new social contract protocol — the Partnership for a Prosperous Jamaica — at King’s House.
The absence of People’s National Party (PNP) representatives, including Leader of the Opposition Portia Simpson Miller, cast a shadow over the proceedings. But participants stuck to the text of the social agreement and appealed for better cooperation between all the stakeholders.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness insisted that “a well-structured partnership”, with clear objectives and structures for monitoring, could ensure that conflicts are resolved and targets are met, and that by working together they could make Jamaica stronger.
“And when we are stronger, we will make Jamaica great again,” Holness quipped.
In a statement released yesterday afternoon, Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives Phillip Paulwell said the Opposition deliberately missed the signing because of concerns it has raised and which have not been addressed by the Holness Administration.
Paulwell’s statement said that the Opposition remains committed to a partnership, but described yesterday’s signing as a “PR event that is not buttressed by real partnership and bipartisan cooperation”.
He said the Opposition leader had written Prime Minister Holness from November 25, stating that the PNP did not agree with the change in name of the initiative from Partnership for Jamaica to Partnership for a Prosperous Jamaica by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration.
“There was no good reason why the original name should not remain as a signal of the continuation of a partnership which has clearly worked for Jamaica,” Paulwell quoted Simpson Miller as stating in her letter to Holness.
He said that Simpson Miller had also raised concern about the lack of consultation with the Opposition on major expenditure projects, partisan focus and the bypassing of duly elected representatives of the people.
Holness told the ceremony that by cooperating under the umbrella of the partnership the two sides could work out their differences.
He said that the Government had adopted an ambitious transformation agenda under the partnership which would focus on economic growth and the creation of jobs; fiscal management and debt reduction; morphing the public sector into an efficient bureaucracy supporting the private sector’s efforts to achieve economic growth and job creation; the increase in the rule of law and reduction in crime and violence; and environmental transformation, including better use of energy, disposal of waste and responding to climate change.
He said that such “a very ambitious agenda” could lead to conflict, saying whenever there is conflict there is the potential for these ambitious goals to be derailed.
“There is potential for politics and self-interest to overtake,” Holness cautioned.
According to Holness, there is need for his Government to have a social partnerships and ensure that all stakeholders are at the table. However, he said the basis of the partnership must be for all stakeholders to figure out how to move from a win-lose to a win-win situation.
“… So that we all can have the benefits of these ambitious goals that we all agree are necessary,” Holness argued.
“The partnership is not just signing a piece of paper; for me, it is a very important mechanism to manage change and resolve conflict,” he added
President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica P B Scott said that the private sector welcomed the continuation of the partnership, and was pleased to continue playing its part in the development and growth of the country over the next four years.
Diana McCaulay, head of the Jamaica Environmental Trust, who spoke on behalf of the civil society groups, saw it as an important opportunity to build a better future for all Jamaicans.
“It brings together leaders from critical national sectors to honestly discuss our development challenges and imperatives,” she stated.
She said that they did not regard the document they signed yesterday as perfect, but said it “demonstrates a joint intention to ensure that the interests of all sectors of the society are considered in national discourse and decision-making”.
President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association Oneil Grant, who represented the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, said that the trade unions saw their role in the contract as to ensure that one aspect of society is properly represented in the partnership.
He said that the trade unions were not concerned about “bread and butter” issues alone, but about the total human being, and pledged their commitment to the partnership and that they would do all within their power to ensure that it is successful.