Tag Archives: JLP

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.

*crickets*

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…”

Okay.

-@MizDurie; @THINKJamaica

Don’t Forget

The logo for the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The logo for the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Editor’s note: This was written and first posted on October 27, 2012, after Mrs. Simpson Miller’s visit to Canada to mark 50 years of bi-lateral relations. The interview to which this piece refers was done by Mr. Cliff Hughes and Mr. George Davis on Nationwide News Network (NNN) on October 25, 2012. The country was just starting to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

*****

It’s funny.  The Prime Minister finally gives a live interview for the first time in [Lord knows how long…], and it’s on an afternoon when 70% of the country was without electricity.

“Don’t want to be political overseas…”, and so, almost affirming that very comment, Mrs. Simpson-Miller became political.  Without reiterating that the succeeding government had to deal with a recession, she stated that when she left government in 2007 unemployment was down, inflation was down, had investments going… As if to say that what she said in her statement during her visit to Canada had no merit once she was on Jamaican soil; that the veracity of that comment is directly proportional to the insight of the audience to whom it was directed.  In other words, (sarcastically speaking, of course), we’re idiots.

“…but I’m not going to—overseas—speak like I would speak to you now”  So are there two sides to Mrs. Simpson-Miller?  I don’t want to think so.  And does Mrs. Simpson-Miller believe that Jamaica is Las Vegas?  That what is said in a radio interview in Jamaica, stays in Jamaica?  “Don’t want to be political overseas…” – so it’s okay to be political at home?  Is this what Jamaicans deserve?

So, to place all that has been said in that interview into a wider context, I respectfully and humbly say this: Don’t forget.

Mrs. Simpson-Miller reminded Mr. Hughes and Mr. Davis in that interview that the former administration entered into an agreement with the IMF and failed to carry through with it.  Well, I suppose it’s an open secret that one of the reasons the IMF agreement was jeopardised was the public sector wage bill.  According to a Jamaica Observer report on June 13, 2011, in an address on a political platform in Granville St. James Mrs. Simpson-Miller said, “When workers are not happy, the country cannot move forward. No country can succeed and prosper if workers do not feel that they are rewarded for their hard work”.  The Observer reported that then Opposition Leader (now Prime Minister) Portia Simpson-Miller “accused the government of provoking public sector workers.”

Friends, don’t forget.

Three months later later, a Gleaner report on September 11, 2011 stated that “The seven per cent wage increase to public-sector workers has forced a revision of a key fiscal target…”  The report later stated:

 “Under the standby agreement with the IMF, Jamaica had agreed to freeze public-sector wages until the end of fiscal year 2012, including the J$30 billion of increases that would have been payable over five years.

However, under pressure to pay from public-sector unions, the Golding administration has decided to pay out J$9.2 billion of outstanding increases [in 2011].

Fast forward to October 2011.  After raising concerns that the then government would again attempt to impose a wage freeze to fulfill its obligations under the IMF loan agreement, according to a Gleaner report on October 10, 2011, Mrs. Simpson-Miller said “…her Government will change how public sector workers are treated if elected.”

Well, in a Gleaner report seven months later – on May 25, 2012 – Dr. Phillips was reported as saying, “It cannot make sense to break into an empty shop, mek no sense to raid an empty cupboard. There is very little in the cupboard at this point in time,”.  This was during his 2012-2013 budget presentation in parliament.

Funny, because this sounds like what Mr. Audley Shaw, former Minister of Finance, said two years earlier (on October 21, 2010), “I have said it before and I’m going to say it again: we cannot make blood out of stone…”

What’s that again about changing how public sector workers are treated?

(Noticed the difference in tone in the headlines, though? Hmmm…)

Friends, don’t forget.

A Government Opposing Itself – Does the Government have multiple personalities?

opposites[1]

When you stay false, how can I stay true?

Tell me why do you always do the opposite of what I do.”

Here’s an idea – if you want to teach your child about opposites, feel free to use this administration as an example.

The quote above is a line taken from the Sesame Street song, “Opposite of What I Do” .  I must say, though, that yellow-haired blue muppet has NOTHING on the current administration, because it appears that for every promise made, it has done the exact opposite.

On December 20, 2011, during the leadership debate between leader of the People’s National Party, Portia Simpson Miller, and Jamaica Labour Party leader, Andrew Holness, an audience member asked the question:

How is the People’s National Party different from the Jamaica Labour Party since both parties have been accused of corruption, bribery and mismanagement, and such the like?”

This was Mrs. Simpson Miller’s response:

“The People’s National Party is different because we’ve put in place a number of institutions to deal with corruption.  I’m very strong in terms of fighting corruption.  I will not tolerate any form of corruption in a People’s National Party Government.  And that’s why, when I’m returned to power as Prime Minister, I will ensure the strengthening of these institutions like the Office of the Contractor General, and all the institutions having to investigate corruption and deal with corruption when they are reported.”

–          (Jamaica Leadership Debate 2011 – comments at 9:15)

Eighteen months later:

“The Portia Simpson Miller-led Cabinet is to consider a submission, which is aimed at amending the Contractor General Act to prevent the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) from getting involved in certain strategic investment projects at the pre-contracting stage.” (“Gov’t looks to limit OCG’s powers“)

Funny, isn’t it, how time changes things?

Question 1: Who determines what these “certain strategic investment projects” are?

Question 2: If there is a valid concern about the procurement of contracts for a particular project, and the OCG is made aware of this during the initial (say, the bidding and selection) stages, is it that we would have to wait until the contract is signed and money spent on the project before we decide to investigate a breach (a la Spalding-gate)?

It actually sounds like a case of “It’s easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission.”  God forbid that there is a breach of procurement guidelines, the horse would have already gone through the gate, money would have already exchanged hands, and we could all brush it aside as “nine-day talk”.

But kudos to this administration, though – only they could convince the people that one can strengthen a body by reducing its power.  I guess this is what governance is like in the twilight zone.

Carry on.