The new Minister of Finance has adopted the stage clothes of his predecessors. He made a budget speech with skeletal underlying policy content.
This did not surprise me since a decent man like Mr Howai is the proverbial egg in a rock stone dance and he would therefore become an immediate prisoner of the cabals of power within the UNC.
Minister Howai was probably as surprised as the rest of us when he heard the generalised and politically expedient announcement (reminiscent of the "limited" State of Emergency announcement) that Value Added Tax was being taken off of "food".
He was probably also forced to attack the fuel subsidy from the narrow confines of the class-ridden assumption that only rich people buy premium gas.
Sadly, the PNM also lacks credibility regarding the fuel subsidy because they never properly tackled it.
No sustainable policy is discernible as the foundations of these food and fuel 2012 budget measures. Of particular concern is the lack of information about the mechanics of the proposed Government $1.5 billion investment with our money into conversion of gasoline vehicles to reputedly cheaper compressed natural gas (CNG), the technology of which has significantly improved.
Perhaps certain investors in conversion shops have to be given a secret head start.
Moreover, the back-back has started with the counter announcement that the removal of VAT from food is in fact temporary and then a rejoinder that it is not temporary.
Are these people all on the same team? Do they talk to each other? Do they define in their heads what the words and phrases they are going say mean before they say them—like food, temporary, limited, managing news and PNM murder?
Our budget debates, which follow within a few days of the budget speech, are merely a variation on the pot calling the kettle burnt because, for much of the time, the debates constitute alleged bandit calling alleged thief corrupt.
That sadly is the only role many of our parliamentarians have decided to play.
This conduct is the outcome of persistence of the Bim and Bam thing, that is the lack of meaningful political choices, examined in this column over many years.
When I was younger and did not yet appreciate that "politics has a morality of its own", I was nevertheless greatly moved by Brother Valentino's brilliant lyrics in the calypso "Life is a Stage" from the moment I first heard it because I was already aware of the prevalence of role-playing in our post colonial society.
The lyrics expressly challenged me to understand my role as a lawyer and to look beyond the narrow confines of my occupation if I was to give something of myself back. Consider these lines of Valentino in the context of the parliamentary charade:
All dem doctors and lawyers
And these ministers
So this honourable this
And this honourable that
And this lady so and so
Is a part all dem people playing I want you to know
So don't blame Doctor Williams
Any time you find you get bad administration
That was meant to be
The fella is playing his role superbly
I have one qualification on these lyrics though. Bad administration is meant to be but only as long as the Bim and Bam syndrome persists and the sins of the Manning PNM (which I criticised roundly in these columns for years) and the sins of the UNC resemble.
I still truly believe that we have the talent and the personal independence of spirit one day to overcome the syndrome and have some influence over our destiny as a nation.
Meanwhile, the Section 34 fiasco is still alive. I have given interviews on radio in Jamaica and commentary in the wider Latin American region. My experience tells me that the interest of the region in the final outcome of Section 34 will not wane.
I predict very nasty weather in the politics replete with threats and intimidation if we do not bow to the Government's wish "to move on".
The current levels of polarisation are disconcerting . I am as disgusted by the phrase PNM murder as I was by Manning's reference to murder as collateral damage.