Editorial

‘Bolo’ work not the answer, teach a man to fish

Friday, December 20, 2013    

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OUR amazement has, over many years, given way to amusement at the ability of successive governments to find money at this time of year to engage in what is essentially a vote-catching exercise.

We're speaking of what politicians refer to as 'Christmas work' which, we note, has taken on an added dimension this year with the announcement this week of $75 million allocated by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to help address challenges being faced by 3,500 vulnerable constituents islandwide.

According to Labour and Social Security Minister Derrick Kellier, this $75 million allocation is a Short-Term Intervention Project which was approved by the prime minister and her Cabinet on Monday.

The programme, he told the Parliament, will offer at least $1 million to each of the 63 MPs to help them respond to the economic challenges being experienced by their constituents, and should target approximately 3,500 persons in total.

Mr Kellier also said that the amount allocated to each MP will be determined by the "pertinent details of individual projects".

The projects that will qualify for this funding include beautification of public spaces, entrepreneurial ventures, and provision of compassionate grants.

We find most interesting is Minister Kellier's claim that the programme will not be an added cost to the budget. It will be financed by spending cuts in other areas of his ministry.

Mr Kellier needs to tell the country which areas of his ministry are affected by these spending cuts and how the cuts will impact people's lives.

At the same time, while we applaud the State's concern for the welfare of the poor, we don't believe that short-term projects will make any genuine, lasting change to their lives.

Instead of engaging in its usual give-a-man-a-fish strategy, the Government needs to take a serious look at creating an environment that will attract the interest of investors who will, upon setting up businesses here, employ more Jamaicans.

Last week in this space we discussed the case of the battle between a number of American states to get US aircraft manufacturer Boeing's assembly plant for its new 777X aircraft.

The state of Missouri, for instance, has approved a US$1.7-billion incentive package that will be worth US$150 million annually to Boeing if the firm creates at least 2,000 jobs there.

Those incentives will remain in effect for more than 20 years.

Washington State, in its bid to get the assembly plant, has approved nearly US$9 billion in tax breaks for Boeing.

State officials have been reported as saying that keeping the 777X plant in Washington would result in US$21.3 billion in tax revenue for 15 years, based on a total of approximately 57,000 jobs.

Washington is also offering new incentives over 16 years to include a 40 per cent reduction in business and occupation taxes, US$3.5 billion in tax credits for the development of the aircraft, a US$562-million property tax credit on land and buildings, a US$242-million sales tax exemption for purchasing computers, and US$8 million allocated in fiscal 2015 to train another 1,000 workers.

Other competing states have no doubt packaged attractive incentives in an effort to get Boeing's business as they, too, realise the benefit of generating jobs for their citizens.

That, we insist, is a long-term response to the plight of the poor, instead of doling out State funds in an effort to boost political stocks.

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