Tue | May 26, 2020

‘All Fools Day’

Published:Thursday | January 15, 2015 | 2:10 PMOlive Nelson
File A farmer holds tomato plants and tomatoes that were been blighted as a result of the drought last year.

Behold, it is September 2012 and, at the ninth hour, darkness overshadowed the land in diverse places and, the Lord, in his mercy, opened the clouds and the rains came on the just and the unjust, and the sons of the House of Gordon rested contentedly from their pathological spinning.

Mr Handel Johnson's letter in The Gleaner of November 3, 2014, 'Why not fix water shortage' and a comment, from Dr Hermoine McKenzie on TVJ's 'IMPACT', of November 3, 2014 suggest to me that there are elements of the articulate minority in this country who expect something to be done by the Government (the minister of water) to ease our predictable and perennial water problem.

Lest we forget, the 2014 drought took us to the brink and some schools had to be closed prematurely for lack of the precious commodity. With no end in sight to the rapidly deteriorating situation, children were invited, by the minister of education, to take enough water to school for flushing in the new school year.

Yes, it was clear to all that the protracted drought was wreaking havoc on every sector of the society, everywhere.

Clear to all, except to the illustrious sons of Gordon House, the country faced a crisis.

The minister of water, Robert Pickersgill, painted, for Parliament, a glowing picture of drought-mitigation strategies afoot. Desilting of the Mona or Hermitage dam would start between January and March 2015.

This would afford a 120 to 180-million gallon increase in capacity. When Dr Horace Chang, opposition spokesman, questioned the validity of the expectation, the minister effortlessly back-pedalled with the explanation that, of course, a study would be done, the results of which would be known within a month.

In the absence of the study, though, he already knew that the estimated cost of the desilting project could be covered from the proceeds of sale of the extracted silt. In addition, there were some 14-15 dormant wells around the Corporate Area and plans were already in place to have them recommissioned into service. Absolutely marvellous.

Since then, I have heard only one related statement from the minister. It was an announcement in November that the rainfall received to that date was only 82 per cent of some previous year's average. We were, therefore, being reminded that we were not yet out of the woods.

Under a regime where accountability counts, one would be certain that after the experiences and promises of 2014, the country would have been better prepared this year for treating with the expected challenges. But are we? It is now time for a progress report.

Drought again

The drought will come again this year. Indeed, it is already upon us, according to reports coming out of St Elizabeth, and, according to meteorologists, is likely to be more devastating than last year's.

For ministers such as Pickersgill, every day is 'All Fools Day'. He can feed anything to those he so contemptuously labels as "ordinary", the inarticulate majority who wins elections for him, in the knowledge that, by the time election comes around, any expression of public disapproval by a pesky minority would have fully "thawed".

Against that background, there is no boundary beyond which he will not send the fool. In 2002, It was a "pothole free" Jamaica by 2003. Last year, it was the urgent tackling of climate-change issues and reactivated wells. It will be the desilting of a dam by the latest March this year.

By next year, there would have been another election and another opportunity for him to reshuffle himself into a less-challenging ministry. Exactly how much does a minister not have to do to get fired?

To avoid early death, all those who are currently holding their breath, to have the drought problems fixed under this minister, should start breathing now.

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