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'Gov't in desperation'

Published:Wednesday | April 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

OPPOSITION SPOKESMAN on Finance Dr Omar Davies yesterday painted the Bruce Golding administration as a "Government in desperation", charging that $300 million was extracted from the National Health Fund (NHF) while hospitals were bereft of drugs and basic equipment.

"How could you sit and allow that?" Davies asked of Health Minister Rudyard Spencer.

In his contribution to the 2010-2011 Budget Debate in Gordon House yesterday, Davies said the list of public bodies ordered by Government to pay over surplus or dividends into the Consolidated Fund made "interesting and disturbing reading".

The NHF, established in 2001, provides health benefits for Jamaicans with specified diseases and medical conditions. Through the NHF, beneficiaries should receive drugs and other benefits at government-owned and other health facilities.

Another critical public body, the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, did not escape the attention of the opposition spokesman.

"What madness could have led to the CHASE Fund being asked to pay over $250 million when all the sectors, in which that institution operates, have good projects which need funding?" Davies questioned.

Role of chase fund

The CHASE Fund was registered under the Companies Act to receive, administer and manage monetary contributions from lottery companies.

The proceeds are intended for sports development, early-childhood education, health and arts and culture.

Davies accused the Government of bending the rules when it ordered 17 public bodies to pay a total of $5 billion into the Consolidated Fund.

"It makes no sense for us to go through this elaborate process of drafting these laws for the TEF (Tourism Enhancement Fund), CHASE Fund, for the NHF, and then whenever they are desperate enough the administration raid the barn and just take out every thing," he said.

The former finance minister queried why $30 million was requested from Ex-Im Bank when the agency was in need of money to onlend to exporters.

Davies also raised alarm about the $400 million that the Overseas Examination Commission was asked to pay into the Consolidated Fund.

The TEF paid $500 million while the Civil Aviation Authority was asked to pump a similar amount into the Consolidated Fund.