Sat | Aug 19, 2017

$13m official visits - Gov't calls PM's 12 trips abroad in 10 months 'great benefit' to Jamaica

Published:Saturday | May 13, 2017 | 5:00 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

After taking the rein of Government in March 2016, Prime Minister Andrew Holness made 12 overseas trips between March and December, costing Jamaican taxpayers approximately $13 million.

Opposition Senator Lambert Brown tabled questions in March about the costs and number of trips for the period under review. Yesterday, Information Minister Ruel Reid gave the overdue answers in the Senate.

Three of the prime minister's visits were to the United States, with the total cost of the overall trips being US$98,953.89.

Reid insisted that the trips, mostly for conferences, were "in order" and Jamaica got what he called "great benefits".

The prime minister visited Morocco for a climate change meeting, and The Bahamas, where he attended the grand reopening of the Sandals Royal Bahamian and Spa Resort.

Approximately US$19,150 was spent to cover the attendance at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. That trip included a stop in the Dominican Republic, which was not in the answers tabled and which led Brown to question if other trips were left out.

However, Reid said there were no more omissions.

According to the information presented, the delegations accompanying Holness mostly consisted of one advisor, a security officer and an assistant.

However, opposition member K.D. Knight said other government technocrats must have accompanied Holness to the many conferences and the costs would be required as well.

Reid first argued that other technocrats would not fall within the prime minister's delegation, but later indicated that he would be willing to get the cost for other persons who represented Jamaica on those trips.

 

THORNY ISSUE

 

Politicians on both sides of the political divide in Parliament use overseas trips to attempt to highlight government waste, but analysts have said it's difficult to assess their benefits.

When Portia Simpson Miller last served as prime minister, Holness as opposition leader, tabled similar questions and suggested that the then government was not being frugal.

The full cost of trips Simpson Miller took during her 2012-2016 time in office is not available, but she went overseas more than 20 times during the first two years.

Travels related to Simpson Miller between January 2012 and 2014, totalled $53.5 million, Radio Jamaica reported in March 2015.

 

Prime Minister Andrew Holness' trips abroad (March - December 2016)

 

1. May 3-5, 2016

Washington DC, United States

PM, advisor and security officer

Cost: US$8,559.46

2. June 3-6, 2016

Havana, Cuba

PM, permanent secretary, assistant and security officer

Cost: US$3,305.21

3. June 25-27, 2016

Panama

PM, assistant and security officer

Cost: US$7,545.91

4. July 3-8, 2016

Guyana

PM, assistant, communications officer and security officer

Cost: US$10,610.79

5. August 11-15, 2016

Brazil

PM, assistant and security

6. August 11-15, 2016

Dominican Republic

PM, assistant and security

Cost for Brazil and Dominican Republic: US$19,149.80

7. September 19-24, 2016

United States of America

PM, assistant, communications officer and security officer

Cost: US$21,686.25

8. November 1-3, 2016

Trinidad & Tobago

PM, advisor, assistant and security officer

Cost: US$2,669.69

9. November 13-19

Morocco

PM, assistant and security officer

10. November 13-19

Nassau, Bahamas

PM, assistant and security officer

Cost for Morocco and Bahamas: US$23, 744.80

11. November 29

Havana, Cuba

PM and security officer

Cost: US$365.34

12. December 15-17, 2016

Florida, United States

PM, assistant and security officer

Cost: US$1,316.64

 

TOTAL: US$98,953.89