FIRM GRIP: Holness greeting Marlene Street-Forrest at the Jamaica Stock Exchange's conference at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in January.
How does Prime Minister Andrew Holness feel about his administration’s performance after a year in office? He’s more or less given his team high marks, a grade that seems to fall somewhere between B+ and an A-. “One of things I’m very proud of with his government is that we’re an open government. We don’t wait until we’re asked. We have in place structures and institutions that provide the information. So if you look at this government and compare it to the last government, we’re far more responsive,” notes the prime minister, who recently broke bread with the directors and senior editors of the Observer at their Beechwood Avenue compound.
“Every government must have a value that it proposes that people buy into, that you wrap into something called a message that is informed by a doctrine or a fundamental philosophy or a belief, or what I like to call a core principle,” he says. “And we have stayed on message, and that is moving Jamaica from poverty to prosperity.”
According to Holness, this message has struck a chord with the masses. “The message of prosperity has taken hold in Jamaica. It is a message that can be easily criticized because it does take some time for it to be fulfilled,” the PM argues. “But I think Jamaicans understand that after so many years of no growth, it is not going to be a flick of the switch; it is going to be a process.”
Of course, not everyone shares PM Holness’ megawatt outlook. Some, his critics especially, are more on the side of cautious optimism. Ian Boyne, for instance, who gives the Holness administration a B. “My biggest concern, in terms of lack of action, is the prime minister’s lack of articulating a comprehensive, holistic vision for Jamaica. He needs to articulate something wider, more engaging than simply ‘prosperity,’” Boyne writes in a typically assertive Sunday Gleaner column. “Prosperity is not a vision. It is a goal. A too-limited goal. A country needs an overarching vision, a set of values that defines that nation.”
Boyne is challenging Holness to raise the bar in year two. “Andrew Holness failed during his first year to inspire us to a broader vision of a new Jamaica. I suspect that if the PM does not step up in this area Peter Phillips might step into that vacuum,” says the columnist and Profile host, who does concede in the end that there are some notable positives of which the administration can be proud. “Holness had a generally good year with solid achievements. And he has the generosity of spirit, emotional maturity and leadership acumen to weather the storms ahead.”