Few Think the Jamaican Government is Performing Well

By Hume Johnson, PhD

Why do Jamaicans’ believe their Government is under-performing, and are they justified? This was the questions asked of me by the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper recently. The latest Jamaica Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll has found that 53 per cent of Jamaicans have given the Government poor marks, with 34 per cent describing the performance as “very bad”, and 19 as “bad”. Only 22 per cent believe that the Government is doing a good job. This is despite the Government’s efforts to create a lean, efficient economy, and passing all IMF tests. The following is my attempt to make sense of this. My response was published in the Jamaica Gleaner, Friday, October 16, 2015.

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Political parties are largely observed and judged through the prisms of citizens own standard of living. Jamaican citizens thus perceive and judge the performance of the Government, based on use the material circumstances of their own life, and the condition of the communities in which they live. Their  ability to access social goods such as water, electricity, food, rent, and whether they are able to afford the cost of those things viz. a. viz their living wages, communicates a lot about their Government, and undercores their feelings about it.

Significantly, that their own representatives appear to live more affluent lives – live in fancy homes in fancy neighbourhoods and drive fancy cars, may also articulate to citizens that the Party is self-seeking, self-interested, benefiting only those within its core leadership, and less so for the public that its elected to serve.

This perception is justified because:

(1) The programmes unveiled to benefit the people seems to be inconsistently applied, benefiting only a minority of people and distributed in an uneven fashion,

(2) These initiatives appear to come in spurts, only at moments such as the JEEP programme, rather than part of a coherent national policy to effect social change.

(3) The PNP has consistently failed to touch base with citizens, engaging them in participatory governance, getting their feedback in a way that shows that it is genuinely representing the people’s interests. This incredible disconnect between the Party and the citizens of Jamaica renders the PNP at odds too often with the sentiments of the people it leads. The party certainly doesn’t take critique well, no matter how well-intentioned, and this level of smugness has caused its favourability to plummet in the eyes of the vast majority of citizens.

To restore legitimacy, it’s important for the PNP to  shift its approach to governance, the philosophy informing policy and how they are effected, and importantly its relationship with civil society, particularly the requirement for participation, information sharing and communication.

Please see the Jamaica Gleaner article here – http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20151016/few-think-government-performing-well-poll-finds

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Dr. Hume Johnson is a Political Scientist. She publishes extensively on governance and civil society in Jamaica and elsewhere. She is the author of the book, ‘Challenges to Civil Society: Popular Protest and Governance in Jamaica’ (Cambria Press, New York).

 

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