Tue | May 23, 2017

Dump Hylton for what?

Published:Monday | June 22, 2015 | 6:00 AM
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Anthony Hylton, minister of industry, investment and commerce.

Anthony Hylton's haste to get to the top of the line for successor to Portia Simpson Miller as prime minister of Jamaica has surprisingly not landed him in scorching hot water.

The industry, investment and commerce minister, who I have compared in these columns with Richard Staple, one of the most talented middle-order batsmen Jamaica has produced never to make runs, has been urged to tender his resignation quietly. This is in light of him talking too much, and being a rooster that cannot distinguish a white stone from an egg.

This Krauck Gruppe, Krauck Systems and Anchor Finance Group LLC matter, or 'Crown and Anchor', as it has been labeled by naysayers, is said to be a major embarrassment for the Government.

In March, Hylton announced during Jamaica Investment Forum 2015 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James that Cabinet has given approval for the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with an investor group that has expressed "solid interest" in investing US$5 billion in a series of logistics-related infrastructure projects.

"[It will] position the country for increased investments in related sectors such as manufacturing, outsourcing, financial services, tourism, and of course agribusiness and creative industries; industries such as those that we will be discussing over the next few days," Hylton said.

I am not about to join the call for Hylton to resign because of the Crown and Anchor affair.

 

NOT A BRIGHT SPARK

 

Most Jamaicans who are paying attention would agree that Hylton has not lit up the

ministry, and, therefore, would not lose sleep if he were to be fired from the Cabinet. It should not be argued however that Crown and Anchor should be the basis of his dismissal.

Based on what the minister said in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the MOU signed on April 21, 2015, between the Government of Jamaica and the Krauck Gruppe, Krauck Systems and Anchor Finance Group LLC was established for a period of six months with the execution contemplated over two phases.

The objectives of the first 30 days of the MoU are to allow Krauck Gruppe, Krauck Systems and Anchor Finance Group LLC to satisfy the Government that it has the financial and technical capacity and experience necessary to execute the project; and that the personnel and the proposing entities are fit and proper persons to do business with the Government.

By now, it should be clear that the Cabinet, despite getting two reports from the National Logistics Initiative Council (NLIC) on the proposing entities, is not convinced that this $5-billion project is possible.

Karl Samuda, the opposition spokesman on industry, said that by failing to do the necessary due diligence on Crown and Anchor, Hylton has caused great embarrassment to the country. He should have waited until the project appeared certain.

If nothing else, Hylton is guilty of making a grand announcement, a sin, however, that does not rise to the level that causes one to be dismissed from the Cabinet.

 

NO GIFT OF GAB

 

What is strange is that the minister does not have the gift of gab. He speaks with a heavy tongue, perhaps a sign from nature that he should keep his mouth shut. For Jamaica's sake, he had better start scoring runs and stop doing commentary. Politics, like cricket, is a cruel game. One unplayable delivery and you are out. And you just might never get the chance to bat again, ever.

Taking into consideration his gift for making announcements, many of which have turned out to be empty, Hylton may very soon become the boy who cried wolf. He had better be careful else not just Jamaicans, but the investor community the world over might start ignoring him.

The NLIC has been managing the implementation of the MOU, and based on the fact that we are halfway into the six-month MoU, it appears unlikely that the Crown and Anchor game will be coming to our town.

Based on the MOU that has been signed, the scope of the project to be undertaken will only be defined if Cabinet gives its approval for the arrangement to enter a second phase. So, one would not be surprised if very little is heard of this $5-billion investment proposal in coming months.

Without a doubt, it would be a major blow for Jamaica if such an investment were not to come on stream. Already, we appear to have lost the Goat Island deal, leaving us with only the dredging and expansion of the Kingston Container Terminal and the divestment of the Norman Manley International Airport as major projects that can make Jamaica the fourth node in the global logistics chain.

If our economy is to move out of the stagnation it has been for the past 40 years, we must get the logistics hub from a concept to a reality. It may require a change of personnel in the key ministries, and that is something to which Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller should give serious consideration.

- Send feedback to daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com