What is Peter Bunting’s track record?

Since the announcement of his challenge to Peter Phillips, many questions have been swirling around about Bunting’s track record, which by the line of questioning seems to refer to his track record in politics only or his proof of long service to party which qualifies him for some kind of award.

What many in politics have failed to grasp is the need for the politics to evolve from the state where the collective leadership is a long service award to one which recognizes the dynamism of politics and the need to adjust with the times to continue meeting the needs of the people which include providing the necessary leadership to meet the demands of the time.

The “track record” to rule one eligible or ineligible for leadership must not only draw on long service in politics but must also include achievements outside the political sphere where one isn’t a career politician. On the surface of it, Dr. Phillip’s very good track record would predominantly be drawn from his public service; while Bunting’s enviable track record would mainly be drawn from his success in business despite having a plethora of political achievements. It is therefore unfair to use the measuring stick of public service to judge both candidates when one has spent a generation in politics while the other has spent much less time in active political service.

Let us not downplay the important lessons that Peter Bunting brings to the table from his experience in running successful private enterprises. In fact, Peter Bunting would be held to higher scrutiny and levels of accountability and transparency throughout his tenure in his private enterprises- let’s face it, transparency and accountability in the public sector is very low to nonexistent. This is not to say that Dr. Phillips’ record in public service is questionable. Both men have had excellent track records in their different areas of focus.

To put forward a narrative that Peter Bunting does not have an enviable track record in politics is also a fallacy. To date, even with a myriad states of emergency, the current administration is yet to achieve the lowered levels of crime that was experienced under Peter Bunting’s leadership with much less draconian and suppressive measures. It is under his leadership that murders were brought to the lowest levels in over a decade. That IS an enviable track record.

Lest we forget, it is Peter Bunting who engineered a stingy defeat of former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer on his first go at representational politics which would have been no easy feat in a traditional JLP seat and against a former Prime Minister. That IS an enviable track record.

It is Peter Bunting who turned away a safe seat to reenter the political arena in a seat that was thirteen per cent down with little time between his introduction to the seat and the impending general election. It is the same Peter Bunting that would have gone on to engineer one political defeat after the other with increasing margins in that seat including 2016 when there was a national swing against the PNP. That IS an enviable track record.

It is Peter Bunting who orchestrated the landslide 2011 election victory with his superior organizational skills in the secretariat as general secretary, sweeping Portia Simpson Miller and her team to power. That IS an enviable track record.

The past aside, Peter Bunting has proven that he is the leader for these times and the future. He understands the need to fuse modern technologies into political machinery, something that has been moving at snail’s pace under the current leadership. One need not look further than his launch, which attracted thousands of young people, to realize that he understands the dynamics of politics in 2019.

Peter Bunting understands the need for the overhaul of the People’s National Party communication machinery which has been significantly subpar when compared to that of the current governing party. Providing a solution for that single problem could move the political party several leaps into the future and present to the nation once again, a formidable and attractive political force.

So what is Peter Bunting’s track record? It certainly isn’t one that may warrant him a long service award in the true sense of political long service but it is one that will enable him to engineer a more powerful political machinery because he understands the needs of a modern political movement. He understands the importance of organization in the 21st century sense and the need to infuse new technologies into the political movement. He understands that the table is big enough to include youth at the decision-making table with the political stalwarts.

After patiently waiting over two years for Dr. Phillips’ wow moment, I am now convinced that Peter Bunting is the man to pilot the transition from analogue to digital and thrust the political movement forward

Are we investing enough in the education of our people?

Having observed the recent wave of de-registration by the UWI Mona yet again, I can’t help but think about my fellow young, ambitious Jamaicans; many of whom, like me, started with little but work tirelessly to achieve something substantial in life.

A tale of being poor and ‘boasy’

I’m writing to all those who benefited from free tuition back in the day, those whose wealth was created indirectly by a government that gave them a shot at free education, those who benefited from the scholarships and bursaries funded by the generosity of another, those who do not understand what it is like to be in a family where there are no university graduates– where one feels like the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the entire family rests on his/her success… Yes, I’m talking to all of you who draw the conclusion that students unable to pay are just lazy and unwilling to cough up the millions. The truth is, the majority is just ambitious– poor, but ambitious!

You criticize them for biting more than they could possibly chew but fail to understand the plight of the many who apply and commence studies on the last string of hope and innate belief that something will work out and some money will come through to cover those fees; that the relatives that promised help will come through for them, that the promise from their political representative will materialize, that they will find a side job while at university to help them, that if they can only scrape together the resources little by little for the first year they might be able to do better for the next year by making the most of a work and travel experience. So to those who think they are just too ambitious, pardon them for being poor and distressed– many of you were once like them, but benefited from free tertiary education, government and government entities’ scholarships and bursaries.

The truth is, the state of tertiary financing in this country must be brought under the microscope and urgent efforts must be made to fix it once and for all. PM Holness boasts being the Prime Minister to lead the fastest pace of infrastructural development in Jamaica’s history (disputable) but with more and more students seeking to gain tertiary education, compounded with the financial challenges that come with seeking tertiary qualifications, he could also oversee the greatest levels of tertiary level deregistration in Jamaica’s history if something is not done exigently to aid the plight of those who seek to have but do not yet have.

Honour your contributions to government but they may never work for you

Life is hard when you’re poor, imagine paying over your contributions for decades but still being unable to qualify for a house through NHT and worse, seeing that section on your pay slip that says “Education Tax” knowing well that you may never get an upgrade on your education and that your child may never get access to tertiary education– that’s certainly a double whammy!

The NHT being so cash rich that it’s money can be used by the government for whatever, whenever, is proof that an Education Trust offering low interest long term loans to their contributors/children of contributors is a step worth exploring by those who have the political will, since making tertiary education free will “cost too much” in this “tight fiscal space” with the stipulations of our “IMF agreement” even while ministers and ministries splurge of state resources.

My understanding of the opportunities that can be opened for an entire family when one benefits from tertiary education forms part of the reason I give support to the “First in the Family Scholarship” proposed by Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips and championed by Senator Crawford. This will form a significant first step and a move in the right direction but will not be enough to solve the broader issue of funding tertiary education. A comprehensive review of the current system will become quintessential but any such review must not leave students more disadvantaged at the end of the process.

Mia’s IMF agreement

By declaring to the universe that quality and free education for her people will not be touched even as she negotiated an IMF deal, PM Mia Mottley has demonstrated that our governments aren’t as powerless in negotiations as they would like to make it seem (that or IMF just have it out fi Jamaica).

“IMF deal”, “tight fiscal space” (and others synonyms) have become common (and worthless) excuses used by Governments of Jamaica to not invest more in its greatest asset- its people! Even as we fix the macroeconomy, we must invest in the education of our people and put systems in place to also build from the ground up, because the benefits ‘up top’ will never trickle down to many who need it most.

Will fixing education not contribute to rectifying a great deal of our social ills? We hear that pumping billions into NIDS will fix crime. Could a greater investment in educating our people play an even bigger role in denting crime?

I understand that fixing education isn’t politically expedient. Unlike building or patching a road (or building a new parliament), hosting massive handover ceremonies to hand over fans, ACs, garbage trucks, inter alia, it may not afford that immediate “chest beating” and self aggrandizement. I understand that keeping people uneducated and poor might be good for electioneering but is it truly good for the country in the long run?