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The opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has once again taken the Portia Simpson Miller led administration to task about the state of the economy .
In the first party conference since its defeat at the polls nearly one year ago , party leader Andrew Holness on Sunday blasted the governing People’s National Party (PNP) for failing to sign an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, for the slide in the value of the Jamaican dollar and the lack of investor confidence.
In his address to delegates at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston , Holness warned the government to restrain from disturbing free health care and other “security blankets” that were put in place during the JLP administration.
“It is the entitlement of the Government to review , review and review but after you review make sure you don’t take away the people’s benefits because that is when you would disturb the Labour Party’s beehive”
Concerning talks with the international lending agency , the IMF, Holness was unrelenting as he attacked the government for not giving a clear signal as to when the IMF agreement will be inked.
“We would not have waited until the existing IMF deal expires, when they took over this country, they had five months remaining on the IMF deal, there was no confidence issue, the dollar had started to tip a little but if the government had acted to show confidence in the market by doing what was necessary to show the IMF that they are serious about structural reform the dollar wouldn’t me moving as it is now.....” he said.
Former Finance Minister Audley Shaw who also addressed the delegates backed Holness. According to Shaw, who is now the opposition’s spokesman on Finance, the current administration is unable to manage the economy and as a result the country has once again gone into recession.
“The economy is stagnant again. For three quarters since they took over, it has not grown. There are concerns in the investment community about the government’s ability to secure an agreement with the IMF.....” he said.
Another matter that party delegates sought to put to rest was that of discord within the party.
In a show of solidarity in the face of rumours of discord and questions about his own leadership, Holness invited Deputy Leaders Dr. Christopher Tufton, Desmond McKenzie, James Robertson and Audley Shaw to join him on stage.
The green clad party supporters railed as Holness declared that the party of the late Alexander Bustamante may have disagreements but remained a closely-knit family.
“I have excellent relationships with everyone in the party …...”declared Holness.
Last week , JLP Member of Parliament Everald Warmington had charged that there were breaches of the party’s constitution in the nomination of three deputy leaders.
However he later withdrew an application for an injunction to bar the election of the deputy leaders.
Concerning reports that persons within the party are trying to oust Holness, this was dismissed by Shaw.
“We have to give the party leader the latitude to bring firm discipline back to the party, it must be understood that we are a party that is to form another government and so therefore we have to operate by rules. if we don’t do that we have nowhere going” Shaw declared
The opposition party broke from tradition this year by hosting a one-day delegates only conference instead of its regular two-day affair which usually culminates with a full day public session on the final day.