by Lipton Matthews
It is quite unusual that politicians are often blamed for our present conundrum by persons who created a conduit for political failure due to their apathy. The issues of mismanagement and waste in the public sector are perplexing for many, but what have we the people done about it?
Criticism of America is valid at times, but criticize all you want, at least in the US there has always been fertile ground for political advocacy. Most of our civil society leaders are elitist political henchmen/lackies who echo ‘public’ sentiment in a somewhat enlightened manner.
For example most persons can agree that corruption is a major problem, but no one is brave enough to monitor expenditure in the public sector; ee even see the government barefacedly trying to strip the Office of the Contractor General of its powers. Some of us fear political victimization and others would dearly love to be appointment to some vaunted position of high office and occupy government boards in the future. So there is no action. I wrote on the need for action in an earlier piece.
We must admit that it is difficult to change the populist culture of Jamaica, where it is a sacrosanct belief that government must be the provider of all services, or somehow has the capacity to do so. If there were say, a coalition for fiscal reform to formed, this could infuse the political system with new ideas and ideals. Jamaica badly needs pragmatic political leaders, not demagogues whose noble intentions have caused us misery and will burden future generations with what will be insurmountable debt.
When funds were diverted from the National Housing Trust to finance a politically expedient programme, ‘JEEP’ there was only one voice to defend the rights of contributors, which was quickly silenced. At the time of the announcement of the NHT raid it was illegal, as Kavon hinted at (here, here and here), if not immoral and unethical move by the government. That was then made legal shortly thereafter, by passing a quick piece of legislation.
Our leaders seem to care more about intentions and not actual results, notwithstanding the track record of initiatives like JEEP. According to American tax expert Chris Edwards in a recent piece:
“Federal programs for the unemployed and disadvantaged workers now cost $18 billion a year, yet the Government Accountability Office recently concluded that ‘little is known about the effectiveness of employment and training programs we identified’. Indeed, many studies over the decades have found that these programs – though well intentioned – don’t help the economy much, if at all.”
We don’t have to go as far as the US. JEEP is just Crash Programme and Spruce Up Jamaica by another name. Those have had no tangible results to my recollection.
Even when the government is being forced to reduce spending, this administration has the effrontery to increased the budget of JEEP from $740 million to $1.04 billion. Although programmes like JEEP are not economically sustainable, this administration along with civil society and the opposition have supported it or not seriously opposed it. Therefore we can’t say that either group is really serious about fiscal reform. It makes little sense for most of us to complain about profligate spending because we support it.
If we were serious about living within our means, then we would ensure that the government divest idle state owned land and buildings and spend less. But the sad reality is that the Jamaican voters are hostile to free market economics; and politicians who do not conform to these ideals will not win an election.
So maybe we should stop complaining because we are the architect of our own demise, or better yet citizens who really care about the future could start their own lobby group, “Coalition for Fiscal Reform”.