Editorial | Mike Henry off the rails
Jamaicans have grown to humour Mike Henry, the minister of transport, for his effusive optimism about the ramshackle railway service and its prospects for catapulting industry in the 21st century. But the joke wears off when taxpayers see their hard-earned cash being poured down a money pit.
The latest light bulb flashing in Mr Henry's head is to revive the rail service in Montego Bay, the northwestern city that serves as Jamaica's tourist capital.
"Some things will be happening that Montego Bay will be very happy about in respect of rail service," said Henry. "I'm going no further than that today because each of these things is exciting opportunities that will be unfolding from the Ministry of Transport and Mining."
That tantalising teaser notwithstanding, the transport minister suffers from a crisis of confidence and credibility. Nearly a decade ago, Mr Henry resuscitated the railway between Linstead and Kingston. Despite the nostalgia and sentimentality, it was shuttered a year later. because it was bleeding the State to the tune of $2 million a month.
Muzzled by fiscal restraints
Prime Minister Andrew Holness is fully aware of the fiscal restraints muzzling the Jamaican Government and must tell Mr Henry candidly that before accommodating any talk about restarting passenger rail service, whether on an interparish basis or as part of Montego Bay's metropolitan transport suite, he must furnish Cabinet and the country with concrete data, independently verified, for perusal.
If he can't, Mr Holness must take away Mr Henry's toy trains and focus his mind on the job at hand.
We fear that the multimodal plans clanging around in Mr Henry's head might be a sign that he is fast losing his grasp on reality. If private investors have shied away from attempts to divest the train service, there might well be method to their madness.