Sun | Dec 4, 2016

What J$4.03m could do

Published:Monday | October 27, 2014 | 12:00 AM

During this Ebola scare, J$4.03 million could buy over 300 handheld temperature devices. Or, it could provide several quarantine units and hire more screeners for our ports of entry. It could purchase much of the barrier medical equipment needed to protect health workers. It could contribute to importing intravenous fluids.

That J$4.03 million could have provided more beds at our overcrowded hospitals (several hospitals ran out of bed space during this chik-V epidemic). It could have gone towards funding a life-saving operation or chemotherapy for one or several patients. Or, it could have bolstered the salaries of several overworked but underpaid health-care workers. It could have helped pay down the formidable sums owed to numerous businesses that supply products and/or labour to government entities.

That J$4.03 million could have been used to assist in providing food and shelter for some of our many suffering and needy citizens. It could have been put towards the collection of our ubiquitous, vector-breeding garbage or clean our blocked drains and waterways. It could have helped clean our beaches and rivers to protect our citizens and vital ecosystem.

The J$4.03 million could have been used to assist in the education of underprivileged students. Or, it may have helped to create job openings for some desperate youngsters. In so doing, it could help to make them productive citizens instead of mendicants or, worse yet, heartless and violent criminals who turn on a society that they perceive as hostile, uncaring and abandoning them, leaving them up to their own devices.

FIGHTING CRIME

That J$4.03 million could have been used by our security and justice ministries in their ongoing fight against crime. Several of our police stations and courthouses are in dire need of upkeep and repairs. The police need more transport equipment, repairs and petrol for their vehicles. Our lock-ups and prisons are all overcrowded and require repair.

The money used to fix our roads could have benefited from an infusion of J$4.03 million. Vital roadways still have dangerous potholes that cause major damage to our vehicles, crashes and road fatalities. Or, that J$4.03 million could have been used to help trim the bushes that encroach on many of our rural and main thoroughfares, which inhibit or totally obstruct visibility and lead to motor vehicle accidents.

Our government is so cash-strapped that it is constantly on the hunt for tax dollars. The J$4.03 million may not be a lot of money on a macroeconomic scale, but it is hard-earned tax dollars. Someone or several people toiled and sacrificed for that money. I knew a lady who was constantly pressured, hounded and threatened by the revenue department. Her family business was unable to pay their quarterly tax returns because the government owed them millions of dollars. It eventually made her so deeply anxious and depressed that she committed suicide.

'REWARDED' WITH PRIVATE JET

That J$4.03 million could have been put to very constructive and life-saving uses, but, instead, it was used to hire a private jet to return the Jamaat Al Muslimeen leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, to Trinidad after he was denied entry into Jamaica on national security grounds. When Mr Bakr was being sent back in the economy class of a commercial airline, he reportedly became boisterous and non-compliant but was 'rewarded' for his illegal behaviour with private transport home.

Mere mortals like you and me would have been roughed up, handcuffed and unceremoniously dragged off to jail to cool off before being escorted on to a similar flight at a later date. No matter how influential, seductive and seditious Mr Bakr seems, sequestering him under 24-hour police or military guard would eventually convince him to return home by economy class.

I'm deflated, embarrassed and distressed. Someone should be held accountable for the waste of that precious J$4.03 million.

n Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.