Wed | May 24, 2017

Election spending and fuzzy maths

Published:Monday | September 14, 2015 | 9:00 AMDonald Wray
Finance Minister Peter Phillips

Recently, the Government of Jamaica successfully negotiated funding from the international capital market to effect the discounted buyout of the PetroCaribe debt. Riding on its bragged creditworthiness in the international markets, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) took an extra US$500 million of loan funds, in addition to the US$1.5 billion needed to liquidate the Venezuelan debt.

Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips was challenged at a subsequent press conference as to whether this extra borrowing would likely find its way into electioneering largesse. Dr Phillips assertively dismissed this notion, saying these monies were secured and being vitally reserved to repay NDX bonds due April next year.

I don't know if Dr Phillips considers us all daft, because although liquidating these bonds would most likely have required borrowing, the planning and operations of the MOF could not have been sitting down idly waiting on such borrowing to offset the timely repayment on these bonds, given the unpredictability of the international capital market, and especially in the face of global tensions.

The MOF must have been setting aside some tranche of resources towards settling this impending debt repayment.

 

Keeping an eye out

 

If so, in the interest of transparency, Dr Phillips needs to publicly identify/declare any such sinking fund resources so that we can keep our eyes on these monies to ensure that there is no 'inadvertent' spending by some dubious MOF official.

We must also be prepared to track the monies that might flow from the increasingly likely easing of the fiscal surplus target which could result from both the PetroCaribe debt-stock reduction and the wider good behaviour of the Government of Jamaica under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.

What then, Dr Phillips, will be the planned spending areas from such increased fiscal space? Further, based on the raft of announced and commenced projects, hasn't the Government, in fact, started spending monies from the anticipated and aptly promised easing by the IMF, or from the US$500m, during this explicitly announced election season?

I think our political officials need to give us more credit than they actually do. What we are experiencing in the lead-up to the impending election(s) is deja vu in political spending from the halls of the MOF, a la Dr Omar Davies in 2002.

Dr Phillips perhaps thinks he is silkier in devising the current spend, and so may not likely consider it necessary to admit to, or apologise for, this pork-barrel exercise, post-elections, as did the gleefully repentant Dr Davies.

In looking more broadly at the political landscape and election spending, the public is perhaps tired of me declaring myself as an 'unrepentant socialist' from the 1970s. But, in addition to my embarrassment of watching the PNP become an ideological amoeba and prostituting itself to every bidder of the immoral ilk, my pain is to see the party originally framed on Norman Manley's strident integrity now just priding itself as fabulous, unbeatable election machinery.

 

Betraying the people

 

And, to literally boast that as long as they gorge their lumpen elements and public-contract greedy bourgeoisie with largesse, they can afford to ignore the interests of the broader citizenry. So doing, the party can keep itself in power to support its partisans, completely discarding its earlier noble mission to uplift the wider Jamaican masses.

So, as our flip-flop association now boasts its success as managers of the economy under the dictates of international capitalism, and readies itself for more election success, I submit that the scenario presented to the black masses is that of a runaway slave from the American South, who is crouching in the safe shadows at a train station, midway the journey to a Northern safe haven.

In a critical moment of self-saving discernment, the masses in Jamaica need to recognise that of the 'trains' parked at the station, that the perceived shiny, efficient, well-equipped direction in which the PNP claims to be taking this country, is in fact heading due South, and thus will only be taking us back into the 'slavery' from which we are seeking to flee.

That's why the masses are now feeling the whip of personal economic constriction, and being given promises of illusory growth, while the PNP hacks quip that they would rather cut their hair and deface themselves rather than cut their largesse.

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