Fri | Oct 20, 2017

Front-page Editorial: NSWMA harms Jamaica

Published:Tuesday | March 17, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Front-page Editorial:

There is perverse logic in the fact that, whether by accident or design, the website of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) neither lists the names nor carries photographs of its board of directors, including its chairman, Steve Ashley, and its CEO, Jennifer Edwards.

For who would want known their association with a body that causes so much harm to the health of Jamaicans and the economy of the country, when their mandate is to the contrary?

Should anyone presume this assertion extreme or alarmist, they need only recall the newspaper and television images in recent days of gasping, panting children being rushed to the emergency centres of clinics and hospitals with respiratory ailments; of the hundreds of people travelling around the capital wearing dust masks and other improvisations; and of the tens of thousands of lost man-hours, of lost production, as enterprises closed because of the smog that still hangs over Kingston and St Andrew because of a fire at the Riverton City dump.

The financial cost of this crisis is yet to be determined, but it is likely to be hundreds of millions of Jamaican dollars, taking a sliver from national output and potential GDP growth at a bad time for the economy.

Then there is the longer-term effect on people's health and, ultimately, its impact on production and productivity - factors that are more difficult to quantify, but for which the analysis ought to be done.

And it will happen again if Jamaica continues to manage solid waste as it has done for decades - putting its garbage at dumps rather than creating modern, sanitary landfills, which was the expectation of the NSWMA when the law for its establishment was passed in the early 2000s.

Now, the complaint is that the NSWMA, with its government subvention of under J$1 billion, can't afford to restructure and modernise.

We have two responses.

The first is that this transformation is not something that Jamaica, which should by now be pellucid, cannot afford not to afford. To do so is to count the cost in the ill-health of the society and the economy. The resources have to be found.

The second is related to the first, and it is that leadership matters.

The NSWMA has to be liberated from its role as a place of unregulated political slush, which demands competent and technically appropriate leadership with a contextual appreciation of what is required and capable of formulating and executing a programme, including sustainable financing, for its transformation.

The NSWMA's current leadership can't cut it.