Central Government Much Too Involved At Local Level

The article ‘Mayor Unhappy with Low Property Tax Compliance’ in Tuesday’s Gleaner raises some serious concerns.

Per the Mayor of Montego Bay, Charles Sinclair, residents’ property taxes are sent to the central government’s Consolidated Fund. Then the various Local Governments, through the Parish Council, apply for disbursements from the Consolidated Fund to fix roads, etc. This is a massive corruption of good governance principles.

I think eighty (80) percent of local taxes should stay in the Parish or town/community in which it was collected. The remaining 20 percent should be put into something like the Equalization Fund for providing infrastructure assistance to poorer towns/communities. It would then be the responsibility of the residents of each area to hold their local government accountable for the collection and judicious use of these funds.

A casual trip anywhere in Jamaica will reveal the terrible state of public infrastructure. Recently, TVJ’s Prime Time News carried a report about a section of local road in Bog Walk that collapsed into a nearby river. The MP for the constituency complained that she had reported the issue to the NWA. The road would be repaired on the NWA’s schedule.

Why should such a pressing local matter be held hostage to the Central Government’s list of priorities? A taxi driver, workers, business people, or school children affected by the road collapse in Bog Walk couldn’t care less in the need to fix a road in Hanover, or in Portland.

Let local taxes stay in the community/Parish. Local governments must retain this funding to deal with their responsibility to improve the infrastructure and provide excellent services for residents.

Advertisements

Government Must Offer More Reasoned Arguments

In response to critiques from the public, I am disappointed to hear poor, infantile reasoning emanating from various Cabinet members.

The Jamaicans for Civil Society Coalition pointed out that MP Shahine Robinson comes with the baggage of her very public dual citizenship trial as well as a massive lawsuit pending. They are concerned about her inclusion in Holness Cabinet. Robinson contends that first matter has been addressed in court, and the second is pending: she believes she can proceed unencumbered. She goes further to express surprise that civil society ‘objects to inclusion of a woman’ in the Cabinet. She claims they had been agitating all along for more women to be involved at that level. Ms. Robinson appears to deliberately muddle the valid legal concerns with a base sexist appeal.

JTA’s objection to the PM’s decision to keep hands-on responsibility for Education is rebuffed by the Minister of Information. The Minister pointed out that Seaga held Finance responsibility throughout his tenure as PM; Manley held Agriculture responsibility for a year. No reasonable argument is advanced to satisfy concerns of the JTA – no explanation of the logic of this decision or what strategy the new PM will employ to keep all the balls in the air.

The Opposition expresses concern about what it sees as ‘waste’ and a ‘self-promoting exercise’ in the Ministry of Tourism’s decision to take out full page advertisements to highlight Jamaica’s recognition at World Travel Awards. The Minister of Tourism fires back that Opposition being ‘mean-spirited’ and hopes for a more cooperative atmosphere in the future. There is no actual explanation of the reasoning for the large ad expenditure, what it was meant to achieve strategically, and whether it did so.

Like it or not, these are among the people charged to lead Jamaica. PM Holness must push his team members to present well reasoned defenses of their actions or positions. Too many weak arguments of misdirection continue to be presented in response to valid public concerns. This needs to change.

PM and Party Leader Roles Not the Same

Our Prime Minister is not directly elected by the people. Constitutionally, the Members of Parliament, as our representatives, pick one of their number to lead the management of our national affairs.

They tell the Governor General who the choice is, and she/he becomes PM. Time is now going to be wasted as Jamaica waits for a JLP party conference to first designate a Party Leader, who will then be de facto PM. That is certainly backwards and unconstitutional!

The current PM is toying with the Constitution by effectively allowing his party’s delegates to pick Jamaica’s new leader. This is a travesty. If the JLP decides to select the new PM (per Parliament’s choice) as leader in their party private activities, that is their business. But we shouldn’t all be held hostage by the JLP’s delegates.

Regarding Mr. Holness, there hasn’t been an investigative assessment in the press of his tenure as Minister of Education. From all indications, much has happened under his watch, and it would be good to learn more about his achievements and challenges there.

Similarly, there has not been much analysis of his work as Member of Parliament for West Central St. Andrew. TVJ and CVM-TV both visited his constituency for feedback from citizens. I do not want to base my assessment of his performance as MP on their reports, but I was dismayed at what I saw on screen.

Per our parliamentary system, Mr. Holness as PM will have virtually unlimited power in Jamaica. Even though he won’t really need to, I would hope to see some evidence that he can temper his approach and work with opposing MPs on national issues. Again, such evidence has not been presented, to my knowledge.

What will Mr. Holness do when faced with roadblocks to his agenda put up by members of his own party? It would be encouraging to hear about instances of fortitude when he has had faced down Members who were determined not to move his way.

At this time, Parliament’s House of Representives (the rightful body) must get together immediately to select a Prime Minister. That person goes to knock on the GG’s door, presents himself for swearing in and, baps, wi done.

Jamaica’s priority is on stability in Jamaica House, not on what happens on Belmont Road. For God’s sake, for Jamaica’s sake, pick a PM and get on with it. It ought to be a very simple process.

That’s the law.

Cronyism in Election Vehicle Policy

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I am outraged by the article titled ‘New policy for election vehicle imports’ in The Sunday Gleaner (October 9, Page A11).

Per the article, some time ago, the two major political parties granted themselves the privilege of importing vehicles at a much lower rate than offered to private citizens or businesses. Further, the privilege only applies to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP), as the policy doesn’t cover ‘minor’ parties.

To a private citizen, this whole thing stinks of cronyism.

Why should these private political groups be treated differently from me, a citizen? The JLP and PNP should be using their private, donated funds to purchase the equipment they need for campaigning. They should pay the standard rates and duties to import their items.

This policy further highlights the almost criminal blurring of the lines between Government and party in Jamaica.

This policy should be discontinued immediately. One rule for everyone – cut out all these unfair and corrupt concessions and loopholes.

Marlon Johnson

mhj_007@hotmail.com

Mishandling Jamaica’s Leadership Change

I’ve been trying to get a question answered all week, to no avail. Why isn’t Andrew Holness immediately sworn in as Prime Minister?

Per our constitution, the Prime Minister is not directly elected. He is simply the majority choice of the duly elected Members of Parliament. So, since our PM is stepping down, the sitting MPs just need to meet and pick a new person. They tell the Governor General who the choice is, and she/he becomes PM.

Leadership of Country and Party Not the Same

Instead, it looks like there is about to be a massive waste of time in Jamaica. Time is now going to be wasted as Jamaica waits for a JLP party conference to first designate a Party Leader, who will then be de facto PM. That is certainly backwards!

Jamaica doesn’t have that kind of money or time to waste on the involvement of the Electoral Commission and the Constabulary Force in the JLP’s internal party activities.

The current PM is toying with the Constitution by effectively allowing his party’s delegates to pick Jamaica’s new leader. This is a travesty. If the JLP decides to select the new PM (per Parliament’s choice) as leader in their party private activities, then they are free to do so. The announced course is clearly out of order.

Modern (Flawed) Election Strategy

MP Chris Tufton and Senator Mahaloo-Forte, on separate Wenesday evening TV programs, presented similar arguments for Andrew Holness as JLP Leader. It seemed to me that Holness as PM was an afterthought.

What I heard last night was ominously familiar. This sounds just like the designation of PNP MP Portia Simpson as Prime Minister in 2006 all over again. Just win the elections, man – we can decide on policy and national strategy later.

Mr. Tufton, sounding quite Prime Ministerial himself, made his case in this way, and I paraphrase heavily:

(1) To continue current policy, the JLP needs to win the next election.
(2) To win the election, the JLP base and donors (as well a few of the rest of us Jamaicans) need to be motivated to vote.
(3) To motivate electors, the JLP needs to put forward a popular candidate.
(4) In the search for a popular candidate, Andrew Holness emerged as a frontrunner per internal agreement, and per limited street polling.

Thus, the party will nominate Mr. Holness as JLP Leader at their internal, private conference next month. On TV, Mr. Tufton threw down the guantlet to the PNP. Can match up the JLP’s shiny new trump card, Mr. Holness as Leader?

No Public Examination?

I couldn’t care less about who the members of the JLP select to lead themselves. That is their business. However, things become much more serious when a person is presented to be the Prime Minister of my country. In that capacity, what am I, a Citizen, to make of Mr. Holness?

Disappointingly, there has been no real investigative assessment in the press of Mr. Holness’ tenure as Minister of Education. From all indications, much has happened under his watch, and it would be good to learn more about his achievements and challenges there.

Similarly, there has not been much analysis of his work as Member of Parliament for West Central St. Andrew. TVJ and CVM-TV both visited his constituency for feedback from citizens. I do not want to base my assessment of his performance as MP on their reports, but I was dismayed at what I saw on screen.

‘Youth on the Move Worldwide’

In the media discussion about Mr. Holness, many comparative references have been made to US President Barack Obama. I have seen Mr. Obama struggle against entrenched politicians in his party and the opposition Republicans.

In the US system of Government, Mr. Obama cannot ride slipshod over Congress to get things done his way. He must negotiate with Democrats and Republicans, highly sensitive to the opinions of the people they represent, to get things done. This has been painfully obvious to the US President and his frustrated supporters.

Jamaica’s winner-take-all Westminister system is a different animal. The JLP is quite justified in pushing for victory – once they are in the majority, there are no real checks against their policies and agenda. The PNP, of course, wants the same thing to achieve their own objectives.

Mr. Holness as PM will have virtually unlimited power in Jamaica. Even though he won’t really need to, I would hope to see some evidence that he can temper his approach and work with opposing MPs on national issues. Again, such evidence has not been presented, to my knowledge.

What will Mr. Holness do when faced with roadblocks to his agenda put up by members of his own party? It would be encouraging to hear about instances of fortitude when he has had faced down Members who were determined not to move his way.

In the real world, the watchdog of our freedoms, the Press, is more excited about the sexier topics of personalities, polls and elections. We’ll worry about policy and professional history later, after the elections.

Stop wasting Jamaica’s Time

Why is Bruce Golding even allowed to pick a date on which he leaves Jamaica House? By law, if he no longer has the confidence of the majority of the sittings MPs, then he has no right to be Prime Minister. The Governer General should have intervened by now to get the new PM decided on and sworn in. That is his lawful duty.

As the PM and PM Designate (a silly, totally unnecessary term) gallivant along until the big JLP hurrah in November, what of Jamaica?

What happens if major decisions impacting Jamaicva’s future need to be made immediately? The JLP may argue that Mr. Holness is already part of the Cabinet and so would be a party to all such decisions. (However, that line of reasoning would open up lines of attack in which the PNP can tie Holness to all of Golding’s decisions.)

Get Going, Man!

The JLP, and the media, are treating the selection of a PM as a massive affair of State. By our Constitution, the PM is not head of state – Jamaica still has a pesky entanglement with the British Queen, represented by the Governor General.

I, a Citizen, demand that Parliament’s House of Representives (the rightful body) get together immediately to select a Prime Minister. That person goes to knock on the GG’s door, presents himself for swearing in and, baps, wi done.

For God’s sake, for Jamaica’s sake, get on with it. It ought to be a very simple process.

That’s the law.

From a Citizen.

A 1950s Educational System in 2011

Tags

, , , ,

“Why did the dinosaurs die?” is a question most parents will eventually hear from their children.

The common theory is that dinosaurs couldn’t deal with climate change caused by an ice age, global warming, an asteroid striking the earth: take your pick. Regardless of your choice, these big, lumbering beasts, the masters of their universe, did not, or could not, adapt to the world as it changed around them.

Millions of years later, lumbering beasts are again dying slow deaths as the world changes around them. This time, it is not climate change that is doing the damage. The world’s economic and socio-political climate is changing very rapidly: today’s lumbering beasts are whole countries, businesses and governments.

One of these beasts is the Jamaican education system. More to come.

BBC Caribbean Service to close. Life will go on.

“The World Service. British Standard Time eight o’clock.” Every morning before school, on Jamaica’s RJR.

So the Brits have come to the realization that they can’t afford to provide free news service in the local languages of many of their former colonies. In Jamaica, there’ll probably be the usual hand-wringing over the loss of an irreplaceble ‘institution’.

An executive at RJR, Jamaica’s oldest radio group, has called for a review of regional capabilities to fill the gap. Why in the world are we just now doing this? It appears that the regional powers-that-be were lulled to sleep as the free product from the BBC continued to flow decade after decade. I would have expected that someone, somewhere, in the Caribbean would have been pressing for investment to improve regional media outlets like CANA.

What Exactly Are We Losing?

I was initially confused about just what the BBC Caribbean Service actually delivered to us islanders. I had thought that the BBC was gathering news in the region and then delivering it to radio stations both here and back in the UK. Apparently, it was quite the opposite: BBC broadcasts worldwide news for delivery in ‘Caribbean English’ to the region’s networks free of charge. Over time, this must have been quite a savings for our Caribbean stations who would not have had to spend on an international news gathering organization. Just where have these savings been invested over the last fifty years?

Do We Need To Replace the BBC Service?

Maybe, but we have to look at it carefully. With the prevalence of the internet, cable and satellite television throughout the region, is there a really demand for international news via radio? One simple test would be to simply charge for the service. Any takers? I think not, especially as news is readily available on over-the-air television stations, such as CVM-TV and TVJ in Jamaica.

Getting an Unfiltered View of the World

I remember the Old People in Jamaica making statements along the lines of ‘the British provide unbiased coverage’. I won’t debate that point, but it does raise a good question. Lots of people wonder about the angles each news outlet has on a situation. Losing the BBC’s radio coverage is certainly a blow in this regard, eliminating one more point for triangulating the truth.

Focusing on the Bigger Picture

We continue to miss the big picture as the world begins to move faster and faster. We are so reliant on the reporting and journalism of others that we’ve failed to invest in our own capabilities. We have the responsibility to develop our own Caribbean worldview. I am not aware of many compelling, must-see regional news programs that address the world through Caribbean eyes. Again, it comes down to basic economics: if we’re truly interested in a regional viewpoint of the world, there would be ready local audience (and advertising market) for such programming. It hasn’t happened, and so it may just be that the BBC Caribbean service will give up the ghost, never to be replaced by a regional equivalent.