Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Daniel Thwaites | Bruce warned us

Published:Sunday | February 12, 2017 | 2:00 AM

It was a magnificent 35th birthday for Donovan the electrician, who was getting promoted at work and making solid money. The single real problem in his life was Sharon, his girlfriend of four years. De ooman did jus' too miserable.

Well, Donovan had decided that he was going to leave work early today and celebrate. More important, this very day would NOT pass without him telling Sharon once and for all that "him done, him done, him done! It mash up! She mus' pack up har tings and leff outa him place." Today, this bodderation gwine stop.

Well, old-time people will tell you: "Man a plan and God a wipe out." Donovan was on top of a roof - an NHT house - when he mishandled some wires and got a terrible jolt. He landed hard on the ground. This was tragedy: an otherwise healthy strong man paralysed from the waist down.

 

No cure

 

Hours later, lying in the hospital, he had received the numbing news that there'd be no cure. He was inconsolable and depressed. Just then, who should step into the hospital room, eyes filled with tears, but Sharon? Donovan looked her straight in the eye, struggling to talk: "Look pon mi! Is mi birthday and mi have sumting to say to you all day, and come hell or high water, I don't want dis day to pass! Sharon, will you marry me?"

Changed facts require changed plans, and even the most principled man understands, or should, that new circumstances require new thinking and behaviour. Sometimes the world changes on us and it is the duty of the honest man to respond with flexibility and, perhaps, when he has made a hasty conclusion that he has had to reverse, a sheepish laugh and an apology.

Which brings me to the current discussion about the Government drawing down further massive sums from the National Housing Trust (NHT).

Nobody has to dig too deep into their memories to recall the hell-and-powderhouse denunciations the then Opposition gave to the Government when there was the initial drawdown from the NHT some years ago.

Holness remonstrated with vigour. Horace Chang moved a motion in Parliament. The Central Executive of the JLP mandated the party to file an action in the Constitutional Court seeking a declaration on the constitutionality of the Government's actions. The board of NHT was roundly criticised by Kamina Johnson Smith for flying in the face of "good governance". It was grief all around.

Bruce Golding unretired himself to fulminate about the "named and uniquely numbered" NHT beneficiaries whose money was being "expropriated". Quite presciently, Golding worried that "the NHT will be treated more and more as a supplementary Consolidated Fund". Bruce said it! And here we are.

So my question is: What facts have changed (other than a change of Government)? Why was it terrible for Portia to do it, if it isn't equally or worse terrible for Andrew to do it? But there's a bigger question beyond the obvious rank hypocrisy.

 

Unworkable promise

 

The looming raid of the NHT has become necessary because the administration is pursuing a version of its unworkable $1.5-million promise. Is that what Dennis Chung is referring to when he says: "Whatever politicians say in their moments of hysteria, it has nothing to do with the practicality of the situation"?

At the time when the promise was made, Mr Holness and Mr Shaw assured the voters that this was perfectly well thought out. There would be no tax increase. Naysayers were politically motivated uninstructed and uninformed miscreants.

Remember when Audley promised the nurses a 100 per cent wage increase? Then he said he didn't. Then Edith produced the tape. Sweet. Don't try that at home. Then remember when Audley took all the money from the IMF, then started to gallivant all over the world - even buying buses down in Brazil - like nothing was wrong when the people were hunting him down? I could go on and on.

All the 'alternative facts' have collapsed. They can't pay for the pre-election promise, so they've introduced "the retarded version" ("Phaaase it eeen!") and done a 180-degree turn on their former "principled" stand against raiding the NHT.

People, people! Here's your "1.5": grab money from the NHT deduction to put back into the income tax deduction, remembering, of course, that some of it will come back out to go back into the new NHT deduction! Pappy-show!

In my last column, I wondered aloud about what was going on between 2012 and 2016 when the Opposition should have been studying hard and making plans to tackle Jamaica's crime problem. It is evident that there was no such study going on.

 

NHT drawdown

 

Here now is proof that the same is true on the economy. Was this NHT drawdown part of the plan? If so, why were you so intransigently opposed to it before? If not, why did you make promises that you couldn't possibly fulfil?

Say what you will about Donovan the electrician: Hard life reached him so he acted in accordance with his principle of self-preservation. What is the Government's "principle" when it hypocritically dips into the NHT funds because it decided to manipulate the public a year ago? A sheepish laugh and an apology are more honest.

This is directed at the Holness administration because they hold the reins of Government now. But the point is more general. How often have we seen ministers grab hold of a portfolio, sometimes that they've been 'shadowing' for years, and yet when they're in the driver's seat, they haven't the faintest clue about what to do?

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.