By Dennie Quill, Columnist
One of the consequences of bureaucratic red tape is that charitable donations from overseas can be stalled at the ports of entry for extremely long periods of time, causing frustration to both donor and intended recipient.
Recently, someone related a story of how a Jamaican resident in the United Kingdom expended a great deal of energy to secure the gift of two ambulances for a rural hospital.
As the story goes, the gentleman had been visiting the community when his mother took ill in the dead of night. Accustomed to First World standards, he immediately grabbed the telephone to summon an ambulance.
It was soon explained to him that none was available, because the last one had died from lack of spare parts. He soon understood that citizens of that community could only get to the hospital by hiring a vehicle to transport them there.
Distressed by these harsh realities, the gentleman returned to the United Kingdom with the resolve to do something about the situation. He decided that he would raise some money to get not one, but two ambulances for the hospital. True to his word, he secured the vehicles and they were shipped to Jamaica.
According to the story, the vehicles remained at Port Bustamante for many months - while the vehicles deteriorated the storage fees were piling up. As frustration boiled over, both donor and benefactor became exhausted and stopped trying, with the result that the ambulances never made it to the intended rural destination.
Although I regard my source as solid, I have refrained from identifying the hospital because I was not able to ascertain from the administrators there exactly what transpired in the bid to take possession of the ambulances.
However, I have heard similar stories over and over again. In fact, there was a recent press report that sporting equipment had been held up at the wharves for several months while INSPORTS awaited an authorisation letter from the Ministry of Finance. I am not sure whether that situation has been resolved.
Jamaicans tend to be very passionate about their island home. Even those with ugly stories, we still reserve some fondness for Jamaica, and for this reason, many want to contribute to the development of their small villages and towns.
By making these donations, they maintain a tangible connection with their homeland, to which some hope to return one day. Their gifts go a long way in improving conditions, especially for the elderly and vulnerable. But I can imagine that persons would be thoroughly put off if their donations are treated with such scant regard.
The burning question on my mind is this: Who is going to cut through the bureaucracy that continues to hold us back and retard our progress? We know what the problem is: Bureaucracy that manifests itself in a tangle of rules and regulations, resulting in suffocating many well-intentioned efforts in a blanket of red tape.
I submit that it is time we establish a Department of Red Tape, whose job it will be to untangle charitable donations by walking donors through a simple set of guidelines. Even the productive sector could benefit from this, for it would mean less duplication of effort and requesting the same information repeatedly.
If you know of any instance where charitable contributions have been mired in red tape, please drop me a line and let's see whether we can find a way to resolve this problem.
Dennie Quill is a veteran media practitioner. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.