by Cato Rand
To inject a bit of humour, I thought I would start my post this week with Josey Wales…..the song’s title it’s apt for the current state of affairs in Jamaica
Let me move along.
À la Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, I do not think the state should be involved in economic activity that can be adequately handled by private citizens and thus I vehemently oppose the state being the primary provider of public transportation in our largest metropolitan area.
Jamaican Urban Transit Company
Government is inherently inefficient and operating a bus service, more for political than economic reasons, is sure to rack up significant losses, .
True to form the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) loses approximately 2 million dollars per day. This is at the Jamaican taxpayers’ expense. I should add that “public transport” through the JUTC is provided for richer Jamaicans in the Metropolitan Area at the expense taxing everybody including poorer Jamaicans who are econmically worse off, in rural areas of the country.
To stem these losses the JUTC has decided to reclaim a number of routes previously handled by private bus operators. Sadly this has resulted in misguided individuals expressing their anger by damaging a number of JUTC buses. This action is to be condemned as strongly as the move by the government to increase its involvement in public transport.
Government operatives and their cheer leaders remark that order needs to be restored to the public transportation system in the urban center and thus the need for the JUTC. I concur that the nationʼs urban center needs a well run transportation system but why canʼt this obtain if operated by private individuals?
The government should remove itself from operating a public transportation system and concentrate on collecting taxes and ensuring that the private operators are observing the law. Given the inevitable continued losses, its only a matter of time before the state will not be able to absorb these losses and the operations will be placed rightly in the hands of private citizens. Government will eventually do this on their own or be pushed by outside forces (hopefully the International Monetary Fund ? I hope they read my column) to do what is economically sensible.
Following the recent killing of persons in Denham Town, I heard Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington remark that those suspected of carrying out this dastardly act should voluntarily turn themselves over to the Police, since if the security forces have to go for them, he cannot guarantee that they will be handled delicately.
I consider this statement most unfortunate especially emanating from the leader of a Police Force that has recently had 8 members arrested by the Independent Commission of Investigations and accused of being responsible for at least 40 murders.
Such a comment by the Commissioner is certainly sending the wrong message about the appropriate use of force in the apprehension of criminal suspects.
The role of the Police among other things is to bring suspects before the Courts where relevant evidence is then presented. The Police must not behave as judge, jury and executioner.
We are in the month of April but the following did not occur on the first day of the month – Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell recently announced that the he has instructed the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to examine the feasibility of establishing a monthly flat rate of $2,000 for the thousands of persons now illegally connected to the power grid. To put things in perspective according to the 2011 census, 805,000 households use electricity however the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) puts the number of clients on its books at just under 600,000.
Is the Minister serious? Are we going to reward persons for breaking the law? I guess we should not be surprised taking into account the approach our politicians have had to squatting.
Will individuals pay say $2,000 dollars per month and then not have access to the grid once they have used the equivalent amount of electricity or will they pay that amount regardless of their monthly kilowatt hour consumption? I am going to disconnect my current connection and set up an illegal one, than apply as a flat rate consumer to reduce my light bill if this comes into effect.
A much better policy to implement, I think,would be the installation of smart meters that would enable householders to top up electricity at their convenience similar to what so many persons now do with their prepayment cellular phone accounts.
I often heard gadfly extraordinaire, the late ʻMottyʼ Perkins remark that God has a sense of humor and I guess we could offer as further evidence of this: only a few days after Paulwellʼs comments, word came that the JPS had applied to the OUR for a review of electricity rates that could result in most (legal) customers seeing a 20% increase in their monthly electricity bills.
Water, water everywhere
The water lock-offs now plaguing the Kingston and St. Andrew metropolitan area is most unfortunate. As we say in Jamaica “You have to tek bad things mek laugh”. So in the proverbial ʻland of wood and waterʼ, households, schools, business places, etc. cannot enjoy a reliable water supply. Persons in our largest urban area are now suffering from the same problem many in rural Jamaica have had to endure for decades.
Successive governments have consistently neglected infrastructure development and it is certainly laughable that at a time when Man is sending space probes beyond our Solar System and the driver-less car is within touching distance, we in Jamaica cannot adequately provide water for the citizenry.
Consider the fact that Falmouth in the 1790ʼs boasted piped water before the same was available in New York City. Back then Falmouth was rich because of sugar . But with the inept, slow learners we have had in leadership positions for many decades , Jamaicaʼs economy has been so run into the ground that the country is unable to fund necessary infrastructure development
I would pay my taxes without a murmur if I knew that some of the crushing debt we have accumulated over the years had been so used that our people in all, if not most parts of Jamaica enjoyed the sort of infrastructure development that a person living in the 21st century Western World should come to expect.
Jamaica is blessed with over 100 rivers , abundant rainfall and for a small island surrounded by the sea, providing a reliable water supply across the length and breadth of Jamaica should be the least of our worries.
Water Resources Authority Director Basil Fernandez is quoted in the March 18 edition of the Jamaica Observer as noting that at present the nation is using only about 22-24% of available water resources. I guess Bob Marleyʼs line in ʻRat Raceʼ – “In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty” is most apropos:
And to think that our political leaders are constantly lauded for the ʻcontributionsʼ they have made to national development.
By the way what has become of former beauty queen Cathi Levy?