Thu | May 25, 2017

Wilful waste makes woeful want

Published:Monday | May 11, 2015 | 5:00 AM

Incredibly, although Jamaica is suffering in the throes of severe austerity measures, there still exists a deep and pervasive attitude that 'the Government' has unlimited financial resources.

I suppose that would explain the constant revisiting of oppressive and exponentially increasing taxation (on the middle class). It is obvious that the powers that be can perceive no limit or breaking point where extracting taxes is concerned.

On his visit to Jamaica a few weeks ago, United States President Barack Obama spoke of increasing production and not just "putting the squeeze" on people (for taxes) in order for the country to grow. But, as usual, I am absolutely certain that nobody in charge paid notice.

A few years ago, I was privileged to learn of the conservation unit within the Jamaica Constabulary Force. I opined that "the major challenge within the public sector is that many public servants erroneously believe that 'the Government' will always be able to find money from 'somewhere' to purchase needed items, to repair equipment, to replenish resources, to pay for their wasteful practices, to pay for their mistakes, to pay hefty utility and repair bills, to keep them employed and to provide a solid retirement plan for them".

I went on to extol the achievements of the conservation unit, which, at that time, had "total fuel savings of about $7.2 million (between January 2011 and September 2012) and telephone savings of $4.4 million (for August and September 2012), electricity savings of about $350,000 per month, which is $5,950,000 (from May 2011 to September 2012)".

And so you can only imagine my absolute dismay at seeing a ruptured water main in a rural parish that I frequent. It was not the first time that I had seen such a thing; the previous 'geysers' spewed many millions of gallons of precious potable water several metres into the air for about three weeks before the National Water Commission (NWC) eventually got around to repairing them. This recent rupture has been going on for several days, although it has been reported by several citizens (including repeatedly by my wife and by me).

 

bad drought

 

Of note is the fact that there is a bad drought all across the island. Of special note is the other fact that the community concerned is plagued by water lock-offs. Of very special note is that the pump for the community that is located at the foot of the hill often malfunctions and the constant outflow of millions of gallons puts a severe strain on it.

Calling the NWC to report a broken main is ... interesting. The agent spends an inordinate amount of time and effort collecting irrelevant data required for some sort of format that they must adhere to. Who cares what my name is? Fix the leak! Does it matter if I live near there or if I just happen to be driving by and see it? Fix the leak! I don't need a reference number for the complaint because, when I asked if there is any way that the agent can tell me whether or not the leak has been repaired, the answer is always, "No."

And then, the NWC, which already blames unseen, leaky underground pipes for a major part of our water woes, knowingly allows obvious and very visible gushers to continue until someone slowly gets around to stopping the leak. But you know what? They simply hike their rates to recover the costs, but they appear to forget that potable (already fully treated and household-ready) water lost cannot be recovered.

Out of desperation, I called people who work at the NWC in various capacities. None could assist. The NWC must certainly see the inordinate time that passes between receiving a report of a massively leaking main and when it is repaired. I wager that NOTHING will come of this. No one will be held accountable and nothing will change. Obviously, no one cares. They'll just increase their rates - as usual.

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