Unhappy jolt for those who ‘bun bad lamp’ for Jamaica

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, April 23, 2017    

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If you close your eyes to facts, you will learn through accidents. — Congolese proverb

There are some in this country who would rather see the disintegration of the economy instead of double-digit economic growth through partnership with a Jamaica Labour Party Administration. Among us are some primordial types who want to see the most ghastly, brutish and hellish crimes descend upon our beautiful island, simply because their political party is not seated on the Government side of Gordon House. Like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, they thrive on perverse pleasures.

Those who ‘bun bad lamp’ for Jamaica got another unhappy jolt last week. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released the findings of the First Review under the Stand-By Arrangement for Jamaica.

It said among other things:

“Programme implementation remains strong under the SBA. Sustained macroeconomic discipline and visible reforms have boosted stability and confidence. Positive real GDP growth has been recorded in seven consecutive quarters, and Jamaica is projected to grow by two per cent in FY2017/18, bolstered by construction and tourism, among other factors. Inflation reached an all-time low in 2016, and investor confidence is at an all-time high, attracting foreign direct investment. The current account deficit has narrowed significantly, supporting accumulation in non-borrowed reserves.

“Continued fiscal consolidation — as reflected in the seven per cent of GDP primary surplus target under the FY2017/18 budget – remains critical for further debt reduction. The ongoing revenue-neutral rebalancing from direct to indirect taxes, designed around the principles of fairness, progressivity and efficiency, will further expand the tax base and work incentives. The budget also provides for greater capital spending.

“The significantly higher budget allocation for social spending will help insulate Jamaica’s poor and vulnerable from the impact of the rebalancing to indirect taxes. Implementation of the PATH graduation strategy later this year will help reallocate resources to the neediest families. The planned targeting assessment will be critical to improving and expanding the coverage.” [IMF Press Release, April 18, 2017.]

I expect the PNP will claim credit for the favourable IMF report. The PNP is hooked on an interminable credit binge. The party spends so much time on ‘red yeye’ politics nowadays that its role as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is suffering. Like its political fraternal twin, the British Labour Party, which is facing almost certain defeat in the upcoming June election, the PNP is etched in an almighty race to the bottom of the political totem pole. Happily for our country, we have an Administration that is focused on results and not empty rhetoric.

Last Thursday the country got some more good news.

“Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith is reporting an 82 per cent reduction in the number of Jamaicans denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago for the one-year period, March 2016 to March 2017.

“Johnson Smith attributed the reduction to consistent work between the governments of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

“Johnson Smith also reported that since the start of the year, her ministry had only received one formal report in February of denial of entry of a Jamaican in Trinidad.

“She said the ministry has started investigation into that report.

“ ‘All of the parts have come together — bilateral, individual and from being better informed — as well as the meeting of commitments by the Government of Trinidad in terms of training their immigration personnel, in terms of preparing comfortable and accommodating surroundings for persons who might be denied or delayed entry into Trinidad,’ Johnson Smith told journalists.

“In January, Johnson Smith had reported that up to March 2016 an average of 49 Jamaicans per month were denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago.” (Gleaner, Thursday, April 20, 2017)

Recall that when the hapless septuagenarian AJ Nicholson was minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, dozens of Jamaicans were ignominiously refused entry into numerous countries, including Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago on a weekly basis.

Recall that I wrote, among other things, on January 16, 2016: “On the matter of digital versus analogue thinking, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator A J Nicholson crowned the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) which was held in Paris, France, last month, as a success.”

“We regard the outcome of the conference as a positive one for Jamaica, for Caricom and for small island developing states, more generally. We were pleased, in particular, to see recognition of the need to endeavour to keep global average temperature below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” Senator Nicholson told the Senate on Friday. (Jamaica Observer, January 9, 2016)

“When this ‘recognition’ is operationalised, it doubtless will be a tremendous positive, I agree. Did this ‘revelation’ require that Jamaica send a delegation of 20 to France for 11 days? How much did it cost taxpayers?

“Trinidad and Tobago has oil, natural gas, asphalt, and other commodities that are in high demand in the world market. T&T’s debt to GDP ratio is 45.4 [2015-09-30], according to the Central Bank of Trinidad & Tobago. They sent a delegation of three. Jamaica’s debt to GDP is 132.2. We are the fourth most-indebted country in the world. Did T&T benefit any less from the conference?

“In November 2014, a four-member delegation headed by A J Nicholson attended the fourth Japan-Caricom ministerial meeting in Tokyo. What is the measurable and verifiable evidence that Jamaicans benefited? Minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Arnaldo Brown spent the better part of three years globe-trotting. Last year, Brown racked up a massive telephone bill of over a million dollars. What quantifiable and verifiable benefits have the masses got as a consequence of Brown’s jet-setting across the globe?” (Sunday Observer, Janaury 17, 2016)

What a difference an Administration makes! These recent newspaper headlines illustrate that our country is on a commendable growth path; hitherto alien to the consciousness of thousands of Jamaicans:

‘Tourism ministry braces for 4.2m visitors in 2017’

“The Ministry of Tourism says that the sector and allied industries have been put on alert to prepare for 4.2 million visitors this year.

“The ministry, in a release, stated that the target represents a five per cent increase on the 3.84 million tourists the country received in 2016.” (Jamaica Observer, March 30, 2017)

‘Therapedic Caribbean signs $60-m deal with Hilton Rose Hall’

“Local bedding company Therapedic Caribbean has signed a $60-million contract with Hilton Rose Hall hotel to supply mattresses and box foundations for the refurbishing of the 489-room hotel.” (Jamaica Observer, March 29, 2017)

‘Government to provide transportation for rural students on PATH’

“Government will, as of this September, be providing school transportation for students who are on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) in five rural parishes.

“The aim is to eliminate the problem of students being absent from schools due to transportation problems.

“Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid, who made the announcement yesterday, said he and Transport Minister Mike Henry are having dialogue on the issue and will be moving to have the bus system rolled out in the next school year, as a pilot project in St Elizabeth, St Thomas, St Mary, Hanover and St James.” (Jamaica Observer, March 29, 2017)

‘Govt Allocates $300m to help needy tertiary students’

“The Government has allocated a total of $300 million to help financially challenged Jamaican students at the University of the West Indies, University of Technology and the Caribbean Maritime Institute [CMI].”

‘$3.2-billion roadworks to start shortly’

“Road rehabilitation projects valued at just over $3.2 billion are slated to get underway in 11 parishes. The projects will be executed under the local component of the Major Infrastructure Development Programme (MIDP).

“Manager, communication and customer services at the NWA, Stephen Shaw, said that contracts for the projects were recently agreed between China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) Limited and nine local companies that will be executing the works.

“Among the roads to be rehabilitated under this programme are Mona Road and the Essex Hall road in St Andrew; the main road from Retreat to Lambkin Hill, St Mary; Sign to Virgin Valley, St James; Toll Gate to Rest, Clarendon; the road from Wire Fence to Lorrimers, Trelawny; and the Ocho Rios Bypass in St Ann.

“Shaw said the new programme of works will also facilitate the reconstruction of the Dumbarton Box Culvert in St Ann, which collapsed during heavy rains in December 2016. The road remains inaccessible to motor vehicles travelling from Brown’s Town to Discovery Bay.

“Sections of the Sandy Gully that have been in disrepair are also slated to benefit under the programme. Just over $150 million is contracted to be spent on such repairs.

“Shaw said that the projects are expected to be completed in six months and will result in the employment of scores of skilled and semi-skilled Jamaicans.

“Under the MIDP, works are also slated to be undertaken during this year on Barbican Road and Constant Spring Road in St Andrew. These works are expected to be undertaken by the main contractors, China Harbour Engineering Limited.” (Jamaica Observer, March 24, 2017)

‘PM apologises to Coral Gardens Rastas’

“Prime Minister Andrew Holness says that his Government has agreed to establish a trust fund of no less than $10 million for the benefit of survivors of the 1963 Coral Gardens incident.

“Six lots at the prominent Rastafarian commune at Pinnacle in St Catherine are to be declared by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) as a protected heritage site and will be developed as a Rastafari heritage and cultural centre.

“In addition, the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society (RCGBS) is to be assisted in accessing resources and benefits for its members that are already available through a number of avenues; and the public defender is to continue locating survivors and gathering background social information about them and their families, in consultation with the RCGBS and the Member of Parliament for that area.” (Jamaica Observer, April 5, 2017)

Recall that some months ago I wrote, among other things:

“This Administration will retain power for more than a term, if it can grow the economy so that the majority feel it in their pockets and see it on their dinner tables.

“It is also crucial that this Administration does everything possible to ensure that this kind of news story is a thing of the past: ‘Spending spree – Auditor general finds public funds going to waste at Factories Corp’:

“The Auditor General’s Department (AGD) has sent to Parliament the report of a regulatory audit into the corporate governance practices of the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ), which points to instances of troubling expenditure of public funds and costly delay of major development projects that were to form part of the Government’s global logistics hub initiative.

“The audit covers the financial years 2010/11 to 2014/15.

“The AGD found that the FCJ paid five board members remuneration totalling $25 million for employment in key managerial positions. ‘We noted that prior to the decision to engage these five members, FCJ sought legal advice from the company secretary (an attorney on the board) whose opinion supported the action,’ the report said.

“In one instance, retroactive approval was given by the Ministry of Finance to engage one of the board members. It is also reported that a senior officer benefited from the arrangement and received payments amounting to $7.3 million for human resource and secretarial services between September 2012 and August 2013.

“However, despite our request, FCJ did not present the engagement letter setting out the terms and conditions of the arrangement, the AGD claimed.

“The explanation offered by the FCJ was that, at the time, the board decided to implement a temporary management oversight team to quickly implement a number of measures and arrangements that resulted in increased performance and enhanced its profits.

“But the audit team said its probe found that the reported net profits at end of the 2009/10 and 2014/15 financial years were mainly due to the revaluation adjustments of FCJ properties.

“At the same time, the FCJ engaged two consultants for $15.2 million between December 2011 and October 2015 to perform operational tasks in the human resource and accounting units. This, the report said, was ‘despite FCJ’s expression of concern that the units did not have the necessary competencies and skills to perform’.

“‘We found no evidence that the corporation did all it reasonably could to strengthen the capacity of these units,’ the document stated.

“Furthermore, the audit discovered that the FCJ, despite concerns about the competence of a senior officer who was engaged on contract, still extended the person’s contract three times whilst engaging a consultant to perform duties that this senior officer should have carried out.” (Sunday Observer, June 12, 2016)

When the PNP hits the streets next month, it will not be able to convince appreciable numbers beyond its core that the JLP is the cause of the causes of crime. Norman Manley’s party is operating on political fumes. It urgently needs an engine overhaul and what some folks call ‘Duco.’

When a king has good counsellors, his reign is peaceful. — Ashanti proverb

— Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or





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