Election Watch

Election Watch




Parties clash on growth, crime reduction at national debate
Observer Reporter
Wednesday, October 09, 2002



Finance Minister Omar Davies (left), of the ruling People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party's finance spokesman, Audley Shaw greet each other prior to the start of the start of the first national political debate at the Creative Production and Training Centre in Kingston. (Photo: Bryan Cummings)

TOP representatives of Jamaica's two major political parties clashed last night on ways to stimulate growth and reduce crime during the first of two nationally televised debates.

Two officials from the People's National Party (PNP) and two from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) also accused each other of misrepresenting each other's records and of being out of touch with reality.

Although low-key in tone, the debate nonetheless revealed yawning differences between the two parties.

PNP's Omar Davies, the finance minister, trumpeted his party's record in reducing poverty from 29 to 16 per cent, and in bringing basic services such as electricity to thousands of rural Jamaicans. He described the JLP's proposals as being out of touch with nuts-and-bolts financial realities.

"We have not solved all problems, but we have put forward a manifesto based on credible projects," he said, saying the JLP's proposals lacked "credibility."

But the JLP's Bruce Golding, who recently returned to the party, and Audley Shaw, a deputy leader and finance spokesman, lashed into the PNP for what they said was the ruling party's miserable record of job creation and a near static growth rate, both of which they said were feeding runaway crime.

Both officials said the JLP would do a far better job than the PNP of creating jobs and an investor-friendly environment."Thirteen years is long enough for a government to demonstrate what it was doing," said Golding, asserting the economy has grown less than four per cent over the past 10 years.

"Where is the growth? Where are the jobs that growth is supposed to reduce?"

Davies, however, labelled as "simply not true" assertions by the JLP representatives that their party had achieved five per cent annual growth rate prior to PNP's return to power.

Shaw also accused Davies of allowing corruption to "become a runaway train that has allowed billions of dollars to go down the drain".

Money "that is being wasted in this country -- NetServ, the Tourist Board scandal -- you name it," said Shaw, referring to two recent controversies that had embarrassed the PNP.

But the PNP's Burchell Whiteman sharply disagreed, saying "one of the strengths of this administration has been in stemming corruption, exposing wrongdoing and dealing with it".

Jamaica was now enjoying an "unprecedented" level of foreign investment, added Whiteman, taking issue with the JLP suggestion that the PNP had a poor record of attracting investment.