You are here
Move beyond Santa hats and hampers
Should the Prime Minister pose a hypothetical question? How am I doing? The answer with respect to babies, young children and the sick will definitely be very positive. But a Prime Minister’s performance is never measured by compassion. It is never personal but rests on the proposition that power is finite, a gift from the people. If not practised solely in pursuit of the people’s prime and urgent interests, then it will inevitably run into unintended consequences. If the people believe they are excluded from power and that powerful people are influencing that power, then leaders eventually suffer support humiliation.
Mother Theresa never had to run a country. If she did she would have been a one-term failure. Five countries have produced the most powerful women Prime Ministers in the last 100 years—England, Israel, India, Ceylon and Dominica. Their playbooks are still available. A poll as to how the People’s Partnership Government is doing would reveal a wide range of contradictions as to where the country is being taken. While crime is at the top of the Government’s list of priorities, it would take at least 30 years to solve that problem. The Government’s Achilles’ heel is therefore the economy. Immediately on taking office, the Minister of Finance, Winston Dookeran, indicated that the cupboard was bare.
He then suddenly gets the Christmas and Carnival spirit and publicly supports the idea that the country will shortly survive its large fiscal deficit, huge debt and low economic growth simply by waving a magic wand made up of his own personal enthusiasm. Unless he can back this up with statistics, apparently invisible during his budget speech, or can inform why in the face of a shortage of funds to meet the Government’s recurrent expenditure, spending on Carnival and other non-essentials will continue to increase. It is like the old saying. The cat is in the bag, but the bag is in the river. What he needs to do is inform the country how he intends to deal with those immersed in the theory that governments exist to be lobbied for making fast and easy money. Or that since the country’s national economic growth derives solely from commodity price swings and energy sector activity; therefore in the present predicament he must cut waste and discretionary spending.
He is also required to explain why in the beginning of his term he attacked his predecessor for leaving him and the country in a dismal financial condition and shortly after he is painting a rosy picture of the future. In other words, Mr Dookeran has some explaining to do, since he cannot take 2010 money from one pocket and put it in the next, then claim I had no money in my left pocket but see now I do. It is called the seen vs the unseen, yet very hard to see what is not done. This also extends to his astounding statement on Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL): “The benefits of having an airline are greater than not having one at all.” But the country is now saddled with not one but two airlines. If you accept his proposition that the country needs an airline, then why also Air Jamaica that T&T has absolutely no use for and will in time pay dearly to keep?
Barbados, the centre of airline activity in the Caribbean, has no airline. Jamaica, forced by the IMF to get out of the business, no longer has to worry about the one that had been bleeding its Treasury, and Liat is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Yet T&T, which the Prime Minister has correctly stated is no ATM and is heading for a future of serious economic stress at home, is about to take on and expand the burdens of its subsidised airline, which is barely scraping the barrel to stay in business. Mr Dookeran’s broad statement has completely left out the capital start-up injection for both Caribbean Airlines and Air Jamaica and the fuel subsidy to CAL to be extended to Air Jamaica at taxpayers’ expense. A recent newspaper statement by the previous chairman of Caribbean Airlines indicates that his board retired without placing any orders for new planes.
So who did? Was it Minister Warner who seems endowed with the amazing powers of how to provoke a controversy, and the dismissed CEO when no board existed? And when did the number of planes ordered increase? The extraordinary intervention of the Attorney General to provide an expert to advise the Cabinet on a purchase which had already been made is quite intriguing. As a result of which the previous chairman of CAL provided some very interesting responses. In essence what emerges is that there was never any proper comparison or assessment made between the ATR and Bombardier equipment.
The main problem had to do with Bombardier’s insistence on a sovereign guarantee and further discussions with that company could have resulted in an adjustment to their terms. Further, the expert Dunne could not be objective since he also works for the parent company of ATR.
In the final analysis, the bottom line is that Mr Warner remains the most independent and powerful member of the Cabinet. And Capt Brunton? Fall guy? Scapegoat? Or too much ambition without political experience? If you are reading any of this you be the judge. If we are putting all that time, effort and money at risk to provide historically “don’t care too much about us” Jamaica with air transport, why could we not have spent it on rail transport for T&T instead? There is no denying that the Government is making attempts at progress. But to accomplish what is required the Partnership certainly has to move up and beyond Santa Clause hats and hampers.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.