Current Affairs

Current Affairs




UWI professor says Golding, Davies stood out in debate
TONY LOWRIE, Observer staff reporter
Thursday, October 10, 2002



PROFESSOR Barry Chevannes of the University of the West Indies (UWI) said Bruce Golding and Omar Davies stood out as the better of the four party spokesmen who participated in the first of two national political debates Tuesday night.

A joint effort of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and the Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ), the debate on Tuesday had Omar Davies and Burchell Whiteman of the ruling People's National Party (PNP) going up against Audley Shaw and Bruce Golding of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

"Golding was very strong, but couldn't help being so because he was speaking from an idealist's point of view," said Chevannes. He added that Davies took a practical approach and was "quite convincing in how he explained the current realities".

Golding had spoken to such issues as "changing the Westminster model that promotes divisiveness and tribalism", reforming "an archaic legislative framework" and the setting up of "independent commissions" while Davies focused on "tight economic management", the "containment of expenditure" and "more efficient revenue collection".

"On the whole," the UWI professor said, "the debate was fairly well balanced and may help voters, who are still uncommitted, to make up their minds."

But Simon Roberts, vice-president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA), said that the format and duration of the debate significantly limited its depth.

"One hour, broken up into segments of less than 10 minutes, is hardly enough time for serious debate," said Roberts, who described the programme as "a series of mini-presentations which saw four very capable politicians restating their respective party's position on a few issues".

The JMA vice-president noted, however, that he was glad that the plight of the local manufacturing sector was brought up in the debate. "There must be concern for the future of our manufacturers," said Roberts "because growth in employment, in the gross domestic product and in government revenue are directly affected by the state of our sector."

During the debate, Shaw had pointed out that Jamaica's interest rates were too high to make the country attractive to investors in manufacturing and other sectors. In his response, Davies noted that interest rates had fallen and that although they still needed to go down further, the real problem was no longer one of accessing finance capital but obtaining working capital. He stated that the priority must be to bring down the fiscal deficit because "at the heart of the matter is the fact that the government is the biggest borrower".

Roberts also suggests that the debate could have been more interesting if the PNP, like the JLP, had fielded representatives who may be seeking leadership of the party (such as Peter Phillips and Portia Simpson Miller) in the near future.

Greta Bogues, executive director of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), which assisted with the planning, noted that efforts were made to increase the duration of the debates and that the organisers were still trying to get more time for the party leaders today. She said, "Patterson and Seaga will have the opportunity to articulate more fully on some of the points raised on Tuesday but which were not adequately covered."