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EDITORIAL - MPs should spurn CDF

Published:Monday | January 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Among the most pleasing bits of government-related news of the past week was the report that MPs had up to then spent only around 60 per cent of the money in that bi-partisan tub of pork drippings they call, euphemistically, the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

Conversely, there was the parliamentary speech by Mrs Shahine Robinson, a minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister, who has oversight of the CDF, in which she urged parliamentarians to use up the allocation. Mrs Robinson, we believe, was irresponsible for encouraging parliamentarians to behave, in our view, irresponsibly.

The CDF is the successor to the Social and Economic Support Programme (SESP), another of those pork troughs so loved by politicians and to which they give high-minded titles so as to disguise their real intent to be arbiter of who gets the society's scarce benefits and to have a direct hand in their delivery. It is a sort of declaration of their benevolence and a way to corral the votes.

Such schemes serve to emasculate the public bureaucracy, diminish its responsibility to manage, and render it unaccountable. They breed corruption.

The Golding administration, of course, doesn't see it that way. It, at one stage, promised to allocate up to five per cent of the Government's annual budget for MPs to spend in their constituencies on projects developed in conjunction, supposedly, with community organisations. Happily, the resources were not available to support a trough of the size initially contemplated, so it was reduced to $2.4 billion, or $40 million per constituency. That was halved in the current Budget.

Closely monitored scheme

The Government likes to speak about how closely this scheme is monitored and will want to take credit for the fact that with a little over two months left in the fiscal year, only $727 million of the $1.2 billion has actually been spent, although another $96 million more has been approved. Really, a few forms hardly deter most politicians, especially when there is the opportunity to slither in pork and to be seen by constituents to be delivering dabs of it.

In this case, though, we commend those, who for whatever reason, have failed to sup at the CDF trough. Maybe we will be lucky enough, given the economic crisis, to have it withdrawn.

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