Mon | May 29, 2017

Who wants to be a politician?

Published:Friday | July 3, 2015 | 7:00 AM
Frank Phipps

A politician's lot is not a happy one. Getting involved in politics carries danger for the aspirant's reputation. It is always open season for stalking politicians, and members of parliament are fair game for the hunter who may wound but shed no blood to threaten political life. The travails for who wants to be a politician imitate television: Who wants to be a millionaire?

Anyone wishing to be actively involved in politics in Jamaica must first join one of the two political parties as an absolute necessity. The doors to Gordon House are closed against outsiders having a say, as third parties and independent views within the party are smothered to preserve purity, if necessary, by undated resignation letters.

A candidate for membership joins with an obligation to put his party first, regardless. The noble intention of service for the love of country - hoping to make a contribution to the country's development, will be compromised and character put at risk by the commitment: 'We know it is always best for the country for us to be in government' and 'we can run with whatever is necessary to secure our longevity'.

The extraordinary power that is bestowed on elected politicians should be used faithfully by good and loyal servants to ensure freedom and security for their master, in this case the people of Jamaica; with happiness and prosperity for all, not only the politically connected.

The authority need not be overwhelmed by crime or stunned by corruption when both are within the politicians' power and responsibility to manage. The wrath poured on elected politicians for their failure to control crime is a wound that will not heal; the tirade of criticism heaped upon those in power for the suffering of others, including the deprivations and hardship of their own staff that they do not share, is a wound that does not bleed. In Jamaica's culture, failure in management is no threat to political life, so it is business as usual. Don't change course!

 

Party above country

 

The effect of partisan commitment is heard loudest on talk radio where citizens express deep feelings of frustration and resentment for what politicians have done to the country and the callers stalk the politicians for putting partisan concerns above the national interest.

Thank heavens for the freedom of expression. Without this exposure, Parliament would be likened to a house of political overlords exercising the unchallenged right to decide all things for the rest of us, however fundamental and far-reaching, without bearing responsibility for failure.

Morning, noon and night radio alleges corruption as a major cause for discontent, second only to crime. Corruption manifests itself in nepotism and waste. The allocation of 'jobs for the boys' without ensuring value for money leaves no funds for development after paying down on the nation's debt; if there must be cutback in the workforce, this is where it should be.

The conduct of the mayor of Lucea is a prime example of unchecked nepotism that seems to infect the entire system of governance that is of little or no consequence to political survival. If anyone wants further evidence of needless spending, ask my wife for her opinion about the North-South Highway.

Driving from Kingston to Ocho Rios, the elaborate construction of roads, bridges and flyovers for the new Caymanas to Mammee Bay highway engages attention wondrously; for a comparatively short journey, the enormous expenditure of funds boggles the mind.

Yet, despite this spending for an alternative road to save time, the 18-wheelers and other long vehicles still barrel along the preferred scenic route by Mt Rosser. On a small island with myriad claims on the national budget, the expenditure for an underused facility is difficult to support when the money could be used for more pressing needs. If it is not a cost to the taxpayer, the people must be told who pays and for whose benefit.

 

Paying the toll

 

The country long ago abandoned the cross-island railway and turned its back on coastwise transportation. Instead of upgrading existing roadways and rehabilitating the railway, a cash-strapped country sees high expenditure on expressways with tolls, bypassing towns and excluding small businesses that depend on through traffic for their survival.

The sacrifice hikes up maintenance for two roads and further pollutes the environment - 'and no birds sing'. On top of that, the traveller now fretfully faces a new threat from the highway man. The sacrifice and the superspending would not be necessary if the project was limited to avoiding the gorge.

The developer of the project announced an economic boost (Sunday Gleaner, June 28, 2015: Faith's Pen vendors to compete with KFC and Burger King at a rest stop halfway on the entire journey of only 45 minutes - travellers get hungry and thirsty very quickly in Jamaica. 'O ye vendors of little faith'.

The country needs to hear from the elected representatives about this economic boost, at whose cost and for whose benefit is the enormous expenditure. The politician's reputation may be damaged by failing the people's interest, but there is no threat to political life. As a survivor, the politician's lot is parodying reality.

- Frank Phipps, QC, is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and frank.phipps@yahoo.com.