Grading Andrew Holness and His Administration

Prime Minister Andrew Holness

It was just under three years ago, with the World in the pangs of a Pandemic, and the Opposition in a shambolic state of disarray, Andrew Holness, decided he would risk the lives of Jamaicans and the well-being of the Nation at large, by taking the Country, into a General Election. 

One might have imagined, that apart from political expediency, there might have been some other pressing national issue, that caused the Prime Minister, to call for a General Election, in the midst of a pandemic. But to date, we have seen no compelling evidence of any such compelling national need, that would have justified the Prime Minister’s rush, to shorten his electoral term, to extend it, with a new mandate.

Well, the Prime Minister’s gamble with the lives and health of his countrymen, and the Country’s economy, paid off and saw him prevailing,  on the 3rd of September, 2020. And him and the JLP giving the Opposition such a historical trouncing,  it left them in a political stupor and groping around in search of solutions.

So overwhelming was the whipping, it left the JLP a 49 Seat majority, whilst the PNP eeked out a face-saving 14-seat count, in Gordon House. Drunk on their own cool aid, many in the JLP started talking of being in power for another 20 years, not factoring into consideration the fact that their majority was achieved with a mere 37% turnout of registered voters, which is the lowest voter turnout on record!

Even more interesting, was the fact that, whilst the JLP increased its seat count in 2020, it was with far fewer votes than it earned in 2016. So talk of an extended mandate lasting as long as 20 years, was more hyperbolic than based in an understanding of the cultural vagaries of the Jamaican Voter, and or a comprehension of the data, that emerged from the two elections. 

Aspirational pronouncements aside, it’s now approaching the 3rd anniversary, of Holness’s 2020 historic victory, so let us now examine his and his administration’s track record, since the 2020 victory; As once again, Holness is looking down the barrel of an impending election, due constitutionally by September 2025. 

Let us begin by acknowledging that Andrew Holness’s and the JLP’s Victory of 2020, was seen as an extension of his 2016 victory, when the political campaign promise was Prosperity, with a promised 1.5. Million dollar tax break for the electorate, with voters, including many who did not qualify for the promised Tax-rebate, anticipated that they too would be benefitting. And so these Voters reasoned that Holness and the JLP needed more time to make good on its many election promises. And so supported their reelection bid. 

Well, that was 2020. Fear was in the Air, and promises were being floated like confetti, with the primary promises Being: 

Prosperity; There was the promise of raising the standard of living by raising the Minimum Wage, The 1.5.Million Dollar rebate; and the general lowering of prices.

Safety And Security;  The ability to sleep with windows and doors open.

End to Corruption. The premise being the PNP was Corrupt to the core, often citing Trafigura, as evidence of that corruption.

Reducing The Cost Of Living: After the basket of groceries trick, in Parliament, the moot A Holness Led Government would reduce the cost of living. 

Well, its 2023, and the electorate now believes that Holness and the JLP, have had ample time to deliver on their election promises, and they are now assessing Holness and the Government’s performance, and the electorate, is not happy with the performance to date, when measured against the background of promises made on the campaign hustings. 

On the subject of Prosperity: very little has changed in the life of the average voter since Holness assumed the reins of power. In fact, dollar for Dollar, the average voter is faring far worse, than he was before Holness came to power, as most food items the cost of fuel, ergo transportation; and all the basic necessities have gone up, whilst salaries have basically remained stagnant, and where there have been increases, those increases have been nominal amounting to a fraction of year to date inflation. 

The common complaint these days is that it costs more to buy less, and more and more people are going hungry, because of the high cost of living. A side effect of that is that more and more young adults are returning home to live with their parents, and or not moving out, because of the high cost of rentals and or purchases. 

Most say they see signs of some kind of progress in the wave of high rises and other buildings going up, but they confess, that the buildings going up are out of their economic zone, and so do not represent a potential game-changer for them.

Security: When it comes to the matter of Safety and Security, this is one area of glaring failure, despite the Police asserting that Murders and Most major crimes are down. Many are convinced, based on anecdotal evidence and on-the-ground reports, Murders are being under-reported by the Police;  and the criminal overlords, ‘Ah run tings”. 

They cite the recent string of high-profile robberies and brazen attacks on the Berylium/Guardsman Security, company, effected in broad daylight where assailants with high-powered weapons, outgunned and overpowered the Security Officers and reportedly made off, with Millions in cash, as evidence of growing lawlessness. 

This coupled with reported murders of children; shoot-outs with Police; unknown assailants attacking and murdering people in public spaces such as Bars, Other places of Entertainment; and the inability of the police to successfully investigate, identify and prosecute perpetrators only added to the prevailing general sense of lawlessness, that hangs like the specter of doom over the Country, retarding commerce, nightlife; whilst fueling migratory trends, as those who can, seek to flee what they interpret as mayhem, for Safer Pastures. Onetime people fled for economic reasons now they flee in fear of falling victim to spiraling crime. And they now believe, nowhere in the Country, is safe from marauding Gunmen. With an increasing number of Citizens, forming the Opinion, that some Law-Officers, side hustle, is as merciless criminals.

The High Cost Of Living: Despite his lofty promise to rein in prices and tame the high cost of living, Holness has had very little success where this is concerned, Whilst he and his spokesmen are always quick to point out the Global effect of the Pandemic on prices, not many are buying the Government’s argument, on the matter of prices. And even those who see the rationale behind that argument, say the Government could do more by dialing down the GCT it charges on basic food items and other necessities, to at least stall the weekly creeping prices, which have placed most basic food items out of reach of ordinary Jamaicans and driving more of the so-called Middle classes, into the ranks of the Impoverished. 

The Government also gets very poor marks for the unexplained pricing mechanism employed by PetroJam, which has led to Jamaicans paying the highest prices for petrol and petroleum products in the region. But what has inflamed passions the most, is the almost weekly increases Motorists are asked to pay at the pumps, and sometimes, at times when the World prices are trending down. 

And remember the Prime Minister’s Claim of people surviving by buying “Fish’Back” as their main source of protein, whilst he was Opposition Leader. Many now say,  “Forget fish-back, they have been reduced to scavenging”. 

Generally, across the board, individual Ministers are also given failing grades by the electorate, as when asked to rate the following, most respondents were very uncharitable, and there were Members of the Government, whose role they could not identify; Many went on to lump the Offices of the DPP and Police Commissioner with that of Ministries, but what was even more disappointing, was the fact that none of those who spoke to us for the basis of this Article, could identify, the current Minister of the Environment. 

Minister Of Security:

MP and Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Horace Chang,; Was regarded by the overwhelming majority of ‘respondents as an abysmal failure as Security Minister.

The Minister Of Education: MP, Fayval Williams,

is regarded by many as generally ineffective, with many complaining of her ‘faux’ accent and drawl, which does not commend her to the public.

Minister Of Finance:
MP and Finance Minister, Dr. Nigel Clarke,

who had a grudging admiration of the financial sector, is now regarded as a Sell-out after his, take it or leave it stance, in compensation negotiations with Public Service employees, and his about-face which saw him awarding Politicians over the top increases. In the same breath.

Minister Of Health MP Dr. Christopher Tufton

, is regarded as a creature of public relations with very little accomplishment to commend him. Reports of his alleged dalliances with a ‘sidechick that was being funded by the Taxpayers, did not win him any support.

Minister Of Foreign Affairs: Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith,

alongside Dr. Horace Chang, and MP And Minister of Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo-Forte, are regarded as the three biggest Ministerial Failures and a complete and utter waste of tax-payers money.

Minister of Justice, MP Delroy Chuck:

Is regarded as a monumental failure as an MP and considered an intellectual lightweight, not worthy of the mantle of leadership for the Ministry he heads.

Minister Of Constitutional Affairs.MP Marlene Malahoo-Forte

, Is regarded as well-intentioned, but lacking the intellectual fortitude, necessary to pilot the much-touted Constitutional reform, now on the political front-burner.

Minister of Sports and Culture, MP Babsy Grange;

Is regarded as ‘a pushy, old woman’, without the requisite vision to offer proper leadership to the Ministry she leads, with many saying she is overstaying her political welcome and should step aside for an infusion of new blood and thinking.

Ministry of Transport and Mining MP Daryl Vaz.

Is in a unique position as many did not grade him but dismissed him as being around too long. Seems to have created his own political syndrome called Vaz Fatigue.

Minister of Information MP Nesta Morgan,

Is regarded as a pompous empty barrel, with very little to offer the national body politic.

Minister Of Agriculture; MP Floyd Green:

Many question his competencies as a Minister, whilst some are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. There are those, however, who still think his violations of Covid 19 restrictions and protocols that they had to endure, make him unfit for high-office and or Ministerial leadership.

Minister of Labour and Social Security: MP Pearnell Charless Jr

. Name recognition is not an asset for Charles Jr. as he seems to have inherited the weariness associated with his Father’s years as a Politician and Parliamentarian.

DPP Paula Llewellyn:

The mere mention of her name provokes a visceral response in many, who sees her as being a power-hungry, poser.

Police Commissioner Maj Gen Antony Anderson:

Is dismissed by many as being totally ill-equipped for the role of Commissioner, as the Culture of the Army, is distinctly different from that of the JCF. And some say we have seen the attempt at imposing old Army men at the top of the JCF, before, with the same results – A demoralized Police Force; an uptick in Criminal activities, and continuing tension between the High Command and those on the ground.

Minister of Local Government, Desmond McKenzie:

has proven himself to be a non-factor

Now, Minister of Tourism and MP Ed Bartlett: Was adjudged The Best Performing Minister, by All our respondents, when asked to name one Minister from the Administration, who they considered Fir-For-Purpose and a beacon in a sea of mediocrity. In fact, many dubbed him ‘Outstanding’. And this was the one redeeming Minister, in an Administration, many dubbed Top-Heavy.

Bartlett gets good marks for not being involved in any public scandal.; bets an A-Plus for not being identified in any Corruption scandal or sub-plots of corruption. And not only does he enjoy the full confidence of industry insiders, unlike most of his Ministerial Colleagues, who do not enjoy the fulsome support of portfolio sector leaders and or the general support of the populace. 

  Prime Minister Andrew Holness, himself, came in for heavy criticism, for his concentration of too many portfolio responsibilities in the Office of the Prime Minister, with a few respondents quipping that the OPM needs to decide if it is going to operate as a Central Command Center for the Government, or it will continue to act as a ‘Retirement Center’ for politicians who have passed their prime. Or assume the role of a training center for Junior Ministers, still wet behind the years and still need training wheels on their tricycles, to help them navigate, while learning the mechanics of the bureaucracy, so as not to run afoul. 

Whatever direction the Prime Minister decides to take the OPM in, under his baton, the consensus is that the OPM  is weighing down the Government and basically is a bottleneck, where plans and productive ideas go to die, and talent gets frustrated.

In summary, the Prime Minister and his administration is being accused of ignoring the voters who elected them to office, and instead, is favouring, special interest and big-money Donors to his party,, resulting in the Prime Minister and his Administration, earning a massive, failing grade!

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