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EDITORIAL - Getting it right before a crisis

Published:Tuesday | January 15, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Ministerial authority in Jamaica makes, it seems, those who get those jobs blind to squalor and impervious to the small things necessary for the orderly functioning of society.

We are not anymore surprised, therefore, when no one appears to notice, until it is made an issue by this newspaper, of, say, a pile-up of garbage at the gates of National Heroes Park or that its verges are overgrown and unkempt.

Or, that the Government doesn't seem to care that the large common (Heroes Circle), of which the park is a part, has been vandalised by the finance ministry for use as a parking lot.

Or, that a park named for a labour leader, St William Grant, with main gates by national heroes Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante, is rank with urine and excreta. Or, that there is worse elsewhere.

Maybe, though, the voice, and concerns, of Dr Kevin Harvey, the director of the Health Promotion and Health Protection Unit at the Ministry of Health, will penetrate the wall of indifference. Dr Harvey's job means that he works for the Government in a senior and critical post.


He has complained about the build-up of garbage across the country, which the National Solid Waste Management Authority and its boss, Jennifer Edwards, may not have noted and which is likely to have escaped the attention of the local government minister, Noel Arscott. Neither has spoken persuasively about the problem and how it is to be addressed. What they have done, expectedly, is to offer excuses about being constrained by the need for exorbitant amounts of money.

Dr Harvey, however, has warned of the potential consequences of this inattention and inaction: the breeding of rats and mosquitoes, and the possible outbreak of diseases like leptospirosis, dengue and cholera. We might add malaria, if we facilitate the greater breeding of the vector that transmits the disease from imported cases.


Fixing a public-health crisis is far more expensive and an exceedingly less efficient way to manage than preventing it from happening. Moreover, much of what is to be done can be achieved, except in the minds of the policymakers, far more cheaply than they make it out to be. But they have to insist on value for money, including not showering cronies with premium dollar for minimum wage labour.

The potential health crisis feared by Dr Harvey is not the only example of our Government failing to do the small things and getting them right. The failure of basic infrastructure maintenance - and not necessarily big ones - is a case in point.

Millions of dollars may have been spent to repair or resurface a road. In short order, a small area is dug up, maybe to repair a water main. An open trench is then left for months until it undermines all that was previously done. The same thing applies to drains, kerbs, median dividers, and much more.

Omar Davies, the works minister, used to talk a lot about making gains in small things, especially in his South St Andrew political constituency. He now has a portfolio where he can make it happen at a national level and be an example to his colleagues in Government.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.