Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Portia never takes action

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2016 | 2:00 AM
Andrew Holness

Below are excerpts from JLP leader Andrew Holness' address at Half-Way Tree Square on Sunday night.

The People's National Party (PNP) promised accountable government, yet we were all outraged that the prime minister took no action against those involved in Outameni, where your National Housing Trust savings were used to bail out their friends, while the NHT board was cutting housing grants for low-income beneficiaries.

The prime minister took no action against an obviously inept minister of health when he did nothing after being warned of the chikungunya threat two years in advance. Having left the minister in place, an unusually high number of babies died in our intensive-care units because of poor sanitation, lack of resources, and poor oversight by the ministry under his watch.

Even after this national tragedy, the prime minister delayed taking action against the minister. She is as much to blame for the deaths of our babies as the former minister of health, especially as she swore to protect the people of Jamaica.

The prime minister took no action with the worst fire at Riverton. Cancer-causing smoke engulfed the city and hundreds of people suffered and had to bear the cost of medical attention. All the prime minister could say is that it wasn't the manager of the dump that started the fire. And not even a little help with medication for affected persons.

The prime minister took no action when her minister of energy mishandled the diversification of the energy sector, when we should have had today a brand new electricity-generating plant. Jamaica will now have to wait several more years for this to happen.

The minister remained to preside over bad gas getting in to the supply chain, and again, no action and no compensation to those who suffered.

The prime minister took no action when the farmers were losing money under the agro-parks or when the funds in the PC banks were being used for non-agricultural purposes.

The prime minister took no action when her minister of industry and commerce made a grand announcement of a US$5-billion Krauck and Anchor deal that turned out to be the real three-card trick!

She took no action when it was revealed that her ministers had telephone bills in excess of J$1m. And she must have approved the purchase of a fleet of brand new SUVs for her Cabinet ministers.

They promised better economic management, yet you have suffered because they froze your wages, while 40 per cent of your purchasing power was eaten away by the slide in the Jamaican dollar. And even though our dollar is cheaper, which means our goods should be cheaper overseas, our exports fall every year. And every time the dollar devalues, the national debt grows. That policy has only hurt Jamaicans.

 

NOT BETTER OFF TODAY

 

As a consequence, our food basket is half what it was in 2011. I carry the food basket, a visual reminder you are not better off today than you were under the Jamaica Labour Party. Working people are getting poorer and the middle class is being wiped out.

They say in ads that they will use your taxes to build schools. This Government has only started and completed one school in its four years. What they have done is close schools.

They say in ads that they will use your taxes to build houses for you. This Government has been a disaster when it comes to housing. The major joint-venture housing project in Dunbeholden,

St Catherine, which we left in 2011, is only now just being completed. All they have done is taken your NHT savings and used it pay the IMF. It would have been better to use that $44b to invest in a massive housing and community-renewal project across Jamaica.

Over the past few years, I have spoken with the backbone of our economy: the civil servants and university students; to taxi men and shop floor workers; security guards and pensioners. They know that Jamaica will not grow if we tax these workers into poverty. The more tax you take now is the less tax you can take the next time.

Today (Sunday) I got an envelope, dropped off anonymously, with what appears to be a highly confidential document between two senior personnel at the Ministry of Finance, giving instructions for a certain department to start identifying the temporary posts that can be cut throughout the various ministries and agencies, and to first look at which senior positions can be made redundant and whose contracts can be bought out. The target seems to be initially 5,000 jobs. Debate or no debate, the country needs to know if they plan on raising more taxes and announcing job cuts. Jamaicans deserve to know the truth.

- Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.