After a long summer break, legislators will tomorrow return to Parliament to conduct the nation's business. We sincerely hope they used the time away from Gordon House to get enough rest, and that they will turn up with their batteries charged, ready to work.
We believe that it would be useful for House Leader Phillip Paulwell, at the start of business tomorrow, to give an indicative schedule of the bills and motions that the Parliament will consider this term. Not only will it allow the public to be able to judge the work being done by the Parliament, but it would give all MPs an opportunity to fully prepare for debates on these bills and motions.
The Gavel need not reiterate its disappointment in the nation's MPs, especially the first-timers, who have taken an inordinately long time to get their wheels turning. One such MP, East Portland's Dr Lynvale Bloomfield, has said he and other MPs would be in a better position to contribute to debates in the House if they are told long in advance the items that are up for consideration. Paulwell should seek to facilitate this process.
We also hope that the Parliament will this term move decisively to deal with Prime Minister's Question Time. The few times the lazy Opposition has raised the issue, it has been about grandstanding and political pointscoring.
The Standing Orders of the House prescribe that there shall be a period known as Prime Minister's Question Time on the second Tuesday of each month. It is also documented that notice of the questions being asked must be given at least seven days in advance.
It is high time the Parliament moves to the place where the prime minister is called upon to answer impromptu questions.
Those major housekeeping matters aside, The Gavel is hoping that tomorrow's start of a new term will see various government ministers making a series of statements on critical areas of national life. To begin with, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips should update the Parliament on the progress being made under the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This update is necessary, especially against the background of private sector interests last week indicating their fear that the deal would collapse.
The Gavel also notes a report coming out of Berlin, Germany, which states that advanced economies led by the United States (US) will increasingly drive global growth while emerging countries are at risk of slowing due to tighter US monetary policy.
The IMF had prepared the surveillance note for the Group of 20 meeting in St Petersburg, Russia.
Emerging economies are seen as particularly vulnerable to a tightening of US monetary policy and the IMF recommended that policymakers be ready to handle a rise in financial instability.
"Policymakers should allow exchange rates to respond to changing fundamentals but may need to guard against risks of disorderly adjustment, including through intervention to smooth excessive volatility," the IMF said.
We find the IMF statement most troubling, especially when one takes into account that the multilateral has compelled Jamaica to devalue its currency in order to be competitive. We must now be alert to the fact that the IMF has urged strengthened global action to revitalise growth and better manage risks as they have recognised that downside risks have become more prominent.
Aside from a clear statement from Phillips on how his team is managing the current situation, it is also critical that the comatose Economy and Production Committee be brought to life. The committee has served no useful purpose in this current Parliament, meeting maybe once or twice because of the absence of leadership. The House must resolve to change that reality.
Meanwhile, The Gavel is expecting to hear a clear statement from the minister of national security on the Tivoli Commission of Enquiry. Peter Bunting should use his time at the wicket to indicate the terms of reference for the commission, the commissioners who have been selected, the budget for the commission, and the time frame for the work to be done.
GOAT ISLANDS CONTROVERSY
Another statement that is necessary is an update from the industry minister about the logistics hub initiative. Apart from the need to address the Parliament on proposals to use the Goat Islands, the minister must indicate the country's state of preparedness to capitalise on the opening up of the expanded Panama Canal in 2015.
Meanwhile, Paulwell, the minister of science, technology, energy and mining and also of announcements, is overdue an update on the red mud project. Paulwell has told the Parliament that by Independence this year, Jamaica could know whether the country would tap the multi-billion-dollar rare earth minerals market, which are key ingredients for cellphones, wind turbines and gas-saving cars.
The minerals have been found in bauxite waste on the island, and an MOU was inked last September with Japanese company Nippon Light Metals, which is seeking to extract 1,500 metric tons per annum, if a project being undertaken is found to be commercially viable.
We need to know whether we have found gold in this red mud and Paulwell cannot stop at just announcements. We hope he uses the floor of Parliament to address the nation on the matter tomorrow, and when he does, he should also give an update on the PetroCaribe summit he attended in Haiti on the weekend.
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