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Opposition eyes gov't spending on PR in election season

Published:Friday | May 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Grange

WITH SPECULATION rife that President of the People's National Party Portia Simpson Miller might be tuning the proverbial trumpet in preparation for the sounding of general election or the local government elections, concern has been raised by the parliamentary opposition about government spending on public relations.

Opposition Spokesman on information Olivia 'Babsy' Grange has indicated that it is not by chance that there is increased allocation in the budget to the communications arm of the Office of the Prime Minister.

In her contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament, on Wednesday, Grange argued that an increase of $9 million in the budget for the communications and public affairs division in the Office of the Prime Minister is significant.

"As the whole increase is going into staff costs including salaries, travel and subsistence, it means that the Prime Minister is definitely beefing up her PR (public relations) staff," said Grange, who is also the member of parliament for Central St Catherine. "Is it in anticipation of increased activities over the next 12 months? Very timely and convenient," Grange quipped.

In a confident and terse sotto voce response, Simpson Miller said, "I am the PR" of the party.

An increase in the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) budget from $377 million, last year, to $522 million this fiscal year, did not escape the attention of Grange.

"This is significant in the current austerity environment. Under the heading 'capital goods', there is an increase from $20 million to $197.4 million," she highlighted.

The Government had already made it clear that this increased funding to the JIS would finance the transfer of the agency's television division from Arnold Road in Kingston to South Odeon Avenue in St Andrew.

While pointing out that she had no objection to that move, Grange maintained that "as we move into a period of elections ... one has to consider that this sudden infusion of additional funding in times of austerity may be, to say the least, timely and convenient."