Tag Archives: Jamaica

A Raid By Any Other Name…

The Government of Jamaica has once again decided to access funds from the National Housing Trust (NHT) to support the national budget.

The thing is, the current administration actually spoke out vehemently against this when they were in Opposition. What gives  changed?

On March 10, 2017, Finance Minister Audley Shaw is quoted in the Jamaica Gleaner as saying:

“We don’t see it as a raid. It’s part of a package and total plan that is yielding greater benefits to hundreds of thousands of people. That’s not a raid!”

Lol…really? It isn’t?

Picture it: Jamaica, 2012

“The Government is to dip into the coffers of the National Housing Trust (NHT) to help to fund the budget.

“The NHT is being called upon to contribute $4 billion dollars…

“Yesterday, opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw warned the government not to raid the NHT.” – Jamaica Gleaner, May 24, 2012

Here’s what Mr. Shaw was quoted as saying:

“I am hearing reports that (Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips) is planning to raid the NHT to close the financing gap and that is going to be a major source of concern to the Opposition.” – Mr. Audley Shaw, then Opp. Spokesperson on Finance quoted in The Jamaica Gleaner, May 24, 2012

Opposition criticism of these actions on the NHT funds didn’t stop there:

“I am surprised at the IMF that they are supporting this kind of scandalous raid on a trust fund… I am surprised that the IMF is prepared to join with the Government in this tax package that has no rhyme or reason except to attack the productive sector.” – Mr. Audley Shaw quoted in The Jamaica Gleaner, February 14, 2013


Opposition Spokesman on Housing Dr. Horace Chang is advising the Government to find alternative sources of funding instead of taking money from the National Housing Trust.

He believes a drawdown on NHT funds will ultimately lead to an increase in the interest rates paid by mortgagers.

Dr. Chang says while he is cognizant of the Government’s fiscal challenges, taking money from the NHT’s surplus and increasing interest rates will have consequences.

He says increasing interest rates will put pressure on middle income earners who he notes are already burdened.

– The Jamaica Gleaner, February 21, 2013


Opposition Parliamentarian, Pearnel Charles, has raised concern about the government’s decision to raid the National Housing Trust (NHT) for budgetary support.

Contributing to the Sectoral Debate in parliament yesterday he pointed out that about 70 per cent of NHT contributors are unable to access a mortgage from the Trust.

He lamented that the money to be taken from the NHT is not taxes due to the government but money employees have worked hard to contribute.

Charles said he’s hurt by what he has described as the confiscation of workers’ money.

He has urged the government to ensure that the money taken from the NHT is returned to contributors.

The Jamaica Gleaner, May 13, 2013


A raid on the NHT by any other name, Mr. Shaw,  is just as “scandalous”.

– @MizDurie; @ThinkJamaica

“Andrew, do the right thing!”

Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister, Jamaica
Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister, Jamaica

On February 25, 2016 the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Andrew Michael Holness, won the general elections.

There have been multiple post-election analyses across various media as to what led to the JLP’s win. Many pegged it to the People’s National Party’s (PNP’s) arrogance, especially during the election campaign. And taking a broader look at the roughly 48% voter turn-out, it is clear that the electorate are…well… “over it”. Regardless of how you dissect it, though, the JLP now forms the government.

When the PNP won in 2011, the same post-election sentiments were dominant – the ousted government was too arrogant. So it wasn’t unreasonable to actually imagine that the incoming government at the time would “tek sleep mark death” and tread carefully, despite its majority status. But it became (almost immediately) apparent, that the voice of the people held value only at the polls. Despite criticizing the size of the Cabinet of the administration before, (now) former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller appointed an even larger executive, and reinstating a salary increase that the Bruce Golding administration denied themselves. New SUV’s were purchased for government ministers at a cost of roughly $60M. Legislation were changed with amazing speed to facilitate the government servicing debt using the National Housing Trust. Accountability was a foreign concept (think Spalding Market, Krauk & Anchor, 360MW bid, Chik-V, Outameni, Klebsiella deaths, etc…). No matter how many times and how loudly the Jamaican people spoke against these significant matters of basic governance, it was as if the government was selectively deaf. Those who dared to speak up were branded as “enemy of the state”, “the chattering class” or the “articulate minority”.

So, on February 25, 2016, the chattocracy spoke where they knew they would be heard – at the polls. And oh how they articulated! They (including those who opted to not participate in the process) gave the JLP a chance at government. The JLP managed to wrest 11 seats from the PNP in an election that had many people (literally) betting against them.

JLP leader and newly appointed Prime Minister Andrew Holness appears (at this stage) to understand the nuances of this victory. His party, under his leadership, worked hard to connect with the people across Jamaica – so much so that 11 seats changed hands. But based on his victory speech on the night of the election, he seems to “get it”:

“It is not the end of a journey; it is the beginning of changing Jamaica… We don’t take it that we have won a prize. We have been given stewardship of the country, and we stand to be held to account for our stewardship. We know that the cost of victory is accountability. The cost of victory is the responsiveness of the government that we will form. The cost of victory is to keep the commitments that we have made.” – Andrew Holness, February 25, 2016

This is a most sober statement. It is easy for a party and its leader to become lost in the euphoria of victory, and perhaps even to become drunk with power during governance. This sentiment shared by Mr. Holness is a flicker of hope that Jamaica will actually have a government that does not take the people whom it serves for granted.

The Most Honourable Prime Minister, in his inaugural speech on March 3, 2016 recalled an elderly voter telling him “Andrew, do the right thing!” He reiterated the burden of victory, and subsequently governance, in this memorable line:

“There is no majority for arrogance. There is no space for selfishness. There is no place for pettiness. There is no room for complacency, and there is no margin for error.”

(I pause to note how this statement plays on statistical terms – statistics which the JLP appeared to have defied in the 2016 elections.)

Deep within I hope against hope that this profound statement was not made only in light of the thin majority that the governing party has. I  sincerely hope that it comes from a place of true conviction and belief that there truly is no place for arrogance, selfishness, pettiness, complacency and error in governance. That this administration WILL listen to the people of Jamaica, not take us for granted, and be “straight up” in its dealings and communications.

In a post election interview with Kevin O’Brien Chang on NCU FM on February 28, Mr. Holness said:

“…people try and misquote and misrepresent what I have said and therefore I keep a very detailed record. In fact, I record everything that I say.”

So do I, Prime Minister Holness. The manifesto is on stand-by.

“Do the right thing!”

– @MizDurie, @ThinkJamaica



If you had to say it…


South West St. Catherine MP Everald Warrington (photo credit: Jamaica Gleaner)
South West St. Catherine MP Everald Warrington (photo credit: Jamaica Gleaner)

“Firstly, I am not crazy…”

Thus began MP Everald Warmington’s formal statement on his behaviour in Parliament.


Sir, if you had to say it…

(And did anyone else say [out loud] that he is?)

This is not the first, nor the worst of this kind of behaviour from the Member from South West St. Catherine. We have seen him spout cringe-worthy, despicable comments before. On live TV, to boot. This pattern of unrestrained tactless behaviour seems to have no end.

It is intolerable. Sadly, though, we fall into a trap of being selective of what we condemn and sanction. Equally tragic is our appetite for the sensational – insatiable yet fleeting. This combination will undoubtedly lead to similar or worse behaviour, and not only from this member.

It is difficult to understand the JLP’s restraint on this (recurring) issue. For each time the party remains silent, or coy in its response to queries on how it is addressing Warmington’s innumerable uncouth public outbursts, it gives the impression that it lacks control (at least), or endorses the behaviour (which would be frightening).

His behaviour is intolerable and cannot continue.


“Firstly, I am not crazy…”


-@MizDurie; @THINKJamaica

#FireFenton – In the real sense


This is an urgent matter so let’s cut to the chase: Jamaica doesn’t have leadership…in the real sense.
We have the appearance of governance and leadership. The hype and fluff of a duly elected government with MPs and ministers, and senators and such.
Yes, we may have one leaders leader.
But not leadership.
See, if Jamaica had LEADERSHIP, there is a chance we would have been spared the constant cascade of catastrophe that is our health system.  And with a health system on life support, the lack of leadership has become a matter of life and death.
And death has reached our babies.
The flashing amber warning lights went off when I first read this article in February 2012. I found the following…curious, to say the least:
“…the health minister expressed surprise that the issue had been made public since he had met with the parties and the agreement was for media silence…”
Yes, they were referring to Dr. Fenton Ferguson, Minister of Health. Well, to be honest, the jury is still out on whether he can be considered a Minister of Health in the real sense.
Fast forward to 2014 when the Chikungunya Virus (Chik-V) brought the nation to its knees – literally. Jamaica was sorely ill-prepared. But, what made the pain of that entire episode even harder to bear is the fact that the Minister – yes THE SAME “Minister of Health” Minister of Health, Fenton Ferguson – was aware of a possible outbreak TWO YEARS PRIOR (as suggested at the end of this news report). And this – at a Caribbean sub-regional meeting in Kingston in 2012:


Believe it.

When, at the time, Jamaicans were sounding off on the fact that the Minister (*sigh*) did not have a grip on his portfolio, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s interpretation of accountability was to have the Minister assist with clean-up activities in her constituency.

Minister (if we can call him that in the real sense) Fenton Ferguson was saved by a broom.


On October 16, 2015, the nation learned (by way of Nationwide Radio journalist Abka Fitz-Henley), that there was an outbreak of some sort at the Cornwall Regional and UHWI Hospitals; an outbreak resulting in the death of newborns.

As if this bit of news isn’t disheartening on its own, try contextualizing it by the fact that Minister Ferguson is sitting on an audit he commissioned highlighting the sorry state of our health facilities.

The health audit came as a result of the revelation (in May 2015) of Dr. Alfred Dawes, former head of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association, that doctors were working in unhygienic conditions with limited medical supplies.

In September 2015, Dr. Ferguson disclosed a summary of the findings. No details, because, according to him, “it would prejudice the facilities.” (Jamaica Observer, September 3, 2015)

That was September. Newborns were already dying as a result of a Klebsiella infection outbreak that their parents (and the public) were yet to find out about.


The writing was on the wall when, in every interview with the press, it was emphasized  that the babies who died were premature. I understand the increased susceptibility to infections in premature babies. What I cannot understand, and WILL NOT accept, is an insinuation and an attitude that suggests that these babies did not have a fighting chance at life at all. Because, you see, they didn’t die because they were premature. They died because of an outbreak of an infection that is associated with other Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs).

The Centre for Disease Control details how Klebsiella can be spread:

In healthcare settings, Klebsiella bacteria can be spread through person-to-person contact (for example, from patient to patient via the contaminated hands of healthcare personnel, or other persons) or, less commonly, by contamination of the environment. The bacteria are not spread through the air.

Patients in healthcare settings also may be exposed to Klebsiella when they are on ventilators (breathing machines), or have intravenous (vein) catheters or wounds (caused by injury or surgery). Unfortunately, these medical tools and conditions may allow Klebsiella to enter the body and cause infection. – CDC

So, it was just a matter of time before Dr. Ferguson, during his presentation to Parliament on October 27, 2015, said this (ad lib, in response to questions by the Opposition):

 “When babies are born under seven months, their organs are not well developed … . Their immune systems are significantly compromised, so I don’t want anyone to give any impression that these are babies in the real sense…”  (from The Jamaica Gleaner, October 28, 2015).

The Prime Minister’s response in all of this?

“I want to extend sympathies to members of the families, and I hope that the Ministry of Health and the minister will look at the present system to see what needs to be done to ensure that what happened will never, ever happen again.”

The Chik-V outbreak was in 2014. A broom saved Dr. Ferguson then.

And here we are today.

It is not enough for him to say he wasn’t informed. And how would he know? On October 27, when asked if the health audit made reference to newborn deaths as a result of poor sanitization, the Minister responded, “I’ll have to check.”

Wait. Did he not at least read the audit? The public audit HE commissioned and is now treating as his personal diary?

We cannot accept less than a resignation from this man. He accepts responsibility for nothing. His leadership of the Ministry of Health is weak at best – catastrophic if we’re talking in the real sense. Real change in the system must start with a change at the top. We cannot entrust the task of change with someone who refuses to even acknowledge his own responsibility as a starting point for change. A new system cannot be entrusted to someone who has overseen multiple (life-threatening) episodes of a breakdown.

He gotta go.


Nineteen families are now grieving for their babies for whom they had every hope and dream.

It is a grief unimaginable. And it is real.

– @MizDurie, @THINKJamaica


(You may also view this blog post on THINK Jamaica’s Facebook page here.)

About Anti-Corruption and Good Governance


On July 31, 2015, I asked the following:

On the morning of August 1, Mr. Greg Christie, former Contractor General of Jamaica, shared his views on the matter via Twitter. His comments take a critical view of this move to implement additional oversight to anti-corruption bodies which are already accountable to Parliament. With his permission, I’ve collated them here for you:


THINK, Jamaica.

– @MizDurie, @THINKJamaica