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EDITORIAL - Headlong into the trough goes Mr Brown

Published:Wednesday | March 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM

This newspaper can confirm that Arnaldo Brown is now an unabashed defender of, and wallower in, political pork, sometimes identified in Jamaica as the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

The evidence of young Mr Brown's plunge into membership of the trough-trolling, fat-drenched, rind-delivering fraternity of politicians is contained elsewhere in this edition of The Gleaner.

He says, "I support the Community (sic) Development Fund, which is a successor to the Social and Economic Support Programme. I am an unapologetic advocate for more funds to be provided to the Fund so that the elected representative(s) can bring meaningful change to their constituency."

Mr Brown's timid and public surrender to blandishments of the CDF trough was accomplished in all of 82 days from his election to Parliament. But perhaps the expectation of a pork fest, the distribution of taxpayers' money with the narrative of the personal, was what enticed Mr Brown to politics.

Indeed, he reminds us, in an otherwise unpublished section of his response, that "civil servants are not elected by the people" and that he has a mandate from his constituents for the specific projects he caused the CDF to finance, but with some entanglements over the routing of invoices.

The travesty of Mr Brown's capture by political pork is not only that he may be well meaning, even if misguided. But, articulate and intelligent, he seemed to hold so much promise. His easy capitulation, however, weakens the foundation upon which other bright young people might have stood to help construct a new politics, with an absence of patronage.

Yet, it is a good thing that the lure of rind is revealed in Mr Brown this early, drawn out by his misapprehension of this newspaper's warning on Monday of the systemic dangers posed by the CDF - and political pork generally - as an attack upon himself.

"In short, the editorial is a travesty and a disservice to the readers and an abuse of freedom of the press," he says. Which, of course, is just so much verbiage.

The young attorney does get one thing right: that this newspaper has campaigned, or, as he put it, "engaged in a crusade" against the CDF. Because we are right.

What the CDF does is barrel out at least $1.2 billion of taxpayers' money for spending by MPs, largely at their discretion, with cursory oversight of a lax unit and broad permissiveness of a parliamentary committee. Their half-hearted yaps are spurred by the growls of the press.

Eroding independence of bureaucracy

Mr Brown tells us, for instance, that he was allocated $3 million and that MPs like himself are "entitled to hire a consultant to the CDF and that that person reports to the member of parliament directly, not the Government of Jamaica, or the CDF Unit".

Clearly, programmes like the CDF help to erode the independence of the professional bureaucracy and legitimises the usurpation of its authority by the political executive, of which Mr Brown is a member.

While we are confident that Mr Brown would never engage in or countenance such misbehaviour by public officials, we believe he will acknowledge that this blurring of lines provides room for corruption.

But Mr Brown believes, it seems, that politicians are inherently better than anyone else at allocating resources and managing projects, all at the same time. Maybe he can be rescued.

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: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.