It must be done!

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says that his ability to complete the long-delayed pension and public sector reforms within his current administration will determine his political legacy.
I don’t think any of the issues that are inherent in these two reforms are beyond the capacity of the Jamaican people to resolve,” Holness told Jamaica Observer board members and senior editorial staff at a breakfast meeting hosted by Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart at the newspaper’s headquarters in Kingston on Friday.
Asked whether he had any uneasiness arising from the fact that his political mentor, former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, suffered serious political fallout from his attempts to address the issue in the 1980s, the prime minister said that he would respond to whatever challenges arose, as it would be a major achievement and he was optimistic that it would happen.
“How I view myself in history is, I would want my epitaph to read that I did the right thing and brought the people out of poverty,” a passionate Holness responded to applause from Cabinet colleagues and guests at the Observer meeting.
The exchange revealed a politically mature leader determined to bring closure to a public sector transformation and pension reform issue which have plagued successive governments since the 1980s, especially in the country’s relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The IMF has consistently insisted on a more efficient and effective public sector, as well as pension policy requiring government workers to contribute to their retirement benefits, thereby creating a huge pool of funds, which could reduce the public sector’s enormous appetite for commercial bank loans.
Unlike 2011, when the then 39-year-old prime minister — the country’s youngest leader ever — awkwardly compared meeting the challenges to taking “bitter medicine”, Holness approached the issue with self-assurance.
He expressed optimism in taking on the challenges of the reforms, which he insisted would be resolved through dialogue with the people.
He told the Observer forum: “I think they will happen this year. There are two things that operate in the Jamaican psyche: the need to be fair (equity), and the fear, or being afraid to do things that are necessary. Our governments have wrestled with these issues [over the years].
“Afraid to do something because the people may perceive it as not being fair and the end result is that the people remain poor longer. That is the politics of poverty: Government catering to short-term needs and desires, taking short-term decisions which end up in the people, particularly the poor who may very well vote for them, staying poor longer. That has been the definition of Jamaican politics for a very long time.
“I consider myself to be a break from that and, therefore, I would never practise a politics that is fearful of doing what is right for the benefit of the Jamaican people. It requires a conversation with the Jamaican people that we should not be afraid of having. So our Government has been a confronting one, and we have not been afraid to confront issues.”
Holness noted that pension and public sector reforms have been on the agenda for more than a decade, but successive governments have been afraid to confront them.
“… And all that has happened is that the problems continue to fester and become more difficult. I intend to have a long future in this country and, therefore, I want that future to be a good one.
“I don’t want the country to continue living in poverty. So I am appealing to the Jamaican people to trust your Government; to believe that the collective effort of us all can deal with these thorny issues in a spirit of partnership and fairness, and I think that we have started with public sector reform in this way, and we have started with pension reform in this way,” he stated.

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