Columns

Give Peter David Phillips his chance

Dr Floyd
Morris

Friday, September 06, 2019

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The year 2012 constituted a critical juncture in the political landscape of Jamaica. We had just emerged from the 11th general election since gaining political independence in 1962. The new Administration led by the Most Hon Portia Simpson Miller was caught in a precarious position because of the failure of the previous Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration to honour commitments under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement that was signed in 2009.

The agreement had come within the context of the global financial meltdown that had a deleterious effect on economies across the world, and the JLP Administration had underestimated the potential impact on the economy, as evidenced in a statement made by then Minister of Finance and Planning Hon Audley Shaw, that the global recession would have no effect on the Jamaican economy.

The Bruce Golding-led Administration had to venture into a borrowing relationship with the IMF and they were frontloaded with financial resources to undergo a menu of reforms, but by 2011 all hell had broken loose with the IMF agreement. Jamaica was in deep trouble with the IMF as it had not honoured its commitments to the fund to undertake structural reforms to make the Jamaican economy more resilient. The in-coming Portia Simpson Miller Administration had to correct this major crisis that the country was confronted with.

I can vividly recall many international commentators commenting on how fiscally irresponsible Jamaica was and some even went as far as stating that Jamaica should be allowed to fail. This is the consequence of short-sighted and irresponsible governmental action action that is only likely to result in the people of Jamaica suffering.

So when Prime Minister Simpson Miller took the Oath of Office for the second time around, indelibly etched in the back of her mind was the existential predicament of the country. She and her Administration had to fix it. But she had to select a special and trusted person to lead this charge.

On one hand she had Dr Omar Davies who had served as minister of finance and planning under former Prime Minister PJ Patterson for 12 years and for the two years she served as prime minister in 2006 and 2007. She never opted for Dr Davies. Then she had the option of Mark Golding, who is one of the finest minds to venture onto the political landscape within the past 20 years. But Golding never had a constituency and the Constitution of Jamaica requires a member of parliament to be the minister of finance and planning.

Mrs Simpson Miller, if she wanted, could have asked Golding to contest the 2011 election in a safe seat so that she could have him as the minister of finance. However, she did not.

Then there was Peter Bunting, who had done very well for himself and was one of the leading bankers in the country. He had years of experience of managing financial institutions. However, Prime Minister Simpson Miller was not confident in him to place him at this strategic position and to fix the problems bedevilling Jamaica.

The man who was chosen was Dr Peter David Phillips, one who had developed an insatiable appetite for fixing big problems. It is a known fact that Dr Phillips had challenged Mrs Simpson Miller in 2008 for the leadership of the People's National Party (PNP) and lost. However, he never left the PNP. He stood by Mrs Simpson Miller and contributed significantly to the demise of the JLP Administration.

One must recall that it was Dr Phillips who had brought a series of questions to the Parliament and asked then Prime Minister Golding about Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, a law firm that was engaged to lobby the US Administration on extradition matters relating to JLP West Kingston strongman and don, Christopher “Dudus” Coke. These questions laid the basis for a major public debate which ultimately led to the toppling of the JLP Administration.

So Dr Phillips was one of the major architects behind the PNP victory in 2011, and with the people's champion Mrs Portia Simpson Miller at the lead of the organisation, it had a landslide victory over the JLP.

Dr Phillips, therefore, had the confidence of Prime Minister Simpson Miller over all the other potential candidates to be minister of finance and planning. To be the minister of finance and planning, the prime minister must have supreme confidence in the individual because decisions can be made that will throw the entire economy and country into a spiral. Dr Phillips accepted this rescuing mission and worked diligently with Prime Minister Simpson Miller and fixed the crisis that the country was in.

I will never forget Dr Phillips saying that in the 2013 Budget Debate, he walked with two documents: his budget presentation and resignation letter. Because he said that if at the end of the Budget Debate there was no agreement with the IMF, then he was going to tender his resignation.

You see, so difficult were the negotiations with the IMF because of what the previous JLP Administration had done with the funds they received and the benchmarks that should have been achieved. Senior operatives from the IMF were insisting that the Government of Jamaica fix the problems before they could come back to them for any assistance. But the Government of Jamaica was not in any shape or form to do this.

The country was on its financial knees and it was the sheer genius of Dr Phillips and the charisma and astute leadership of Prime Minister Simpson Miller that caused powerful men and women in the United States Congress to intervene in the process. This is how Jamaica eventually got an agreement with the IMF in 2013.

Dr Phillips worked tirelessly with Prime Minister Simpson Miller to correct the débâcle that the country was confronted with and today Jamaica is being hailed for the rescue mission of Prime Minister Simpson Miller and Dr Peter Phillips.

The much-celebrated Economic Programme Oversight Committee is a construct of Dr Phillips as he designed the plan to rescue Jamaica from the economic precipice in 2012. Today, I see the Government maintaining it as a fundamental part of its quest to have economic independence.

I also take note that economists and financial specialists are predicting that within another two years we will have a global recession. They are, however, all saying that this will not have a deleterious effect on Jamaica, save and except for tourism, because the economic fundamentals here are significantly better than in 2008.

The current high and stable levels of Net International Reserves was firmly built by Dr Phillips as he made moves to make the economy more resilient. Thanks to Dr Phillips and the Most Hon Portia Simpson Miller for setting this solid foundation for our country.

It is within these contexts that I believe Dr Phillips deserves his fair day before the Jamaican people. I believe that he deserves to be given a fair chance to face the Jamaican people in the capacity of president of the PNP and to state his claim for wanting to be prime minister and to transform the lives of the Jamaican people. I am prepared to give him that chance because he has proven to be a trustworthy, loyal and honest individual. A man who has put party over self. One who has put country over personal ambitions, and a man who knows how to fix problems.

Jamaica needs fixing, and Dr Phillips is the man who can do that. I want him to get the opportunity to become prime minister of Jamaica and he will be getting my vote for president of the PNP on September 7. I urge the delegates of the PNP to do likewise.

 

— Senator Dr Floyd Morris is Opposition spokesman on social security and a member of OnePNP


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