Fri | Jul 21, 2017

Ronald Mason | Plundering Jamaica

Published:Sunday | July 16, 2017 | 7:00 AM

Jamaica has been independent since 1962, but we got internal self-government in 1955. For at least 62 years we have had the responsibility to order our own affairs to achieve the desired targets.

As the task of governance has become more complex and more demanding of skilled persons, we have expanded the number of parliamentary seats all the way up to 63. In addition, we now have 228 parish municipal councilors and 21 senators for a grand total of 312 persons who have governance responsibility.

With a population of 2.8 million people, we have one of these creatures for every 8,900 persons in Jamaica. A colossal oversaturation and a complete waste of money. What, mainly, have these politicians been doing? They spend millions on phone bills and they spend millions and, indeed, billions on various kinds of vote-buying schemes. They access funds from every ministry. The PC banks lose millions, the Factories Corporation engages in questionable practices, land is distributed to friends and family, they approve sand mining in Duncans where a principal player is a Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) politician.

 

ECONOMIC GROWTH

 

When the taxpayers are no longer being directly fleeced, they seek to commandeer National Housing Trust, Tourism Enhancement Fund, CHASE, and Coconut Industry Board money and any other fund that has a positive bank balance. They then proclaim loudly that they have achieved 1.3 per cent growth.

However, the growth for the Cabinet has been nothing short of spectacular. How in all conscience can you really come and tell the people that some $120 million has been spent for new vehicles since the general election of 2016, millions more divided up for phone privileges, transportation costs, helpers, drivers, groundskeepers, personal security, housing, allowances. No wonder Pearnel Charles, Peter Phillips, Derrick Smith and Douglas Vaz have offspring who seek to enjoy the legacy. Along with those are Juliet Holness.

Members of Parliament are elected to govern, not rule. They are asked to apply their abilities to the improving of the lives of all Jamaicans, not just the chosen few. Why do they treat the assets of the people contributed through their taxes as if its their own bank account?

The $8.3 million spent for one year's cell-phone bill by the minister of finance, the guardian of the Consolidated Fund, is most egregious. Just think how this could help to provide pension benefits for those who must live on $40,000 per month after years of service to the country.

The prime minister treats citizens with gross contempt. He has yet to discuss his own cell-phone usage. He has yet to discuss the OCG's report on the $606-million bush-clearing programme. He has yet to tell the country what kind of sanctions will be applied to those who abuse taxpayers' money.

 

LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY

 

In any self-respecting democracy, Audley Shaw would have resigned or been fired. In any self-respecting democracy, Karl Samuda would have been sanctioned over the Mombasa grass. This has not happened, and it will not happen, as long as birds of a feather all congregate in groups of 63 at Duke Street. They need to remember 'today fi yuh, tomorrow fi me'. The people watch, they see, the people hear, the people learn, the people feel, the people bide their time.

There are multiple garrisons, gun-infested, don-controlled constituencies. For the prime minister to say Jamaica does not need dons is an axiom so true it cannot be disputed, but what are the individual politicians doing to take this plague from the land? What are St James Members of Parliament Horace Chang and Marlene Malahoo Forte, who, along with others, were in attendance at the Montego Bay political meeting that erupted into gun violence and deaths doing?

This plundering of the society is neither new nor limited to the party currently forming the administration. For decades we have had this abuse heaped on the people by both the PNP and JLP. The people have reacted in a progression that has gone from rationalisation with 'ground apples', bottles, knives, sticks and guns. They have moved from a politics of hope to a position of deep cynicism.

In 62 years of governance, we have made negligible progress in education, land reform, wealth creation and growth in per-capita income and GDP. How ironic that we are being told that GDP in the immediate future will grow by two to three per cent, primarily because of the restarting of Alpart's bauxite mining, yet for more than four decades, both parties squandered the proceeds of the bauxite-alumina industry. This has been a form of plundering the treasury.

It is not too far-fetched to foresee a time when the people will render a severe judgment on this period of rule for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.