Shame and scandal in the family!

Thursday, December 05, 2013    

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Some of us in this beloved island exist in splendid isolation from the reality, in a bubble even, as evidenced by the things we choose to spend our energies on.

Take as an example, the foolish preoccupation with the cost and "frequency" of overseas trips taken by Prime Minister Mrs Portia Simpson Miller. What a waste of time by people who clearly don't have anything better to do with their time!

Thinking people ought to know by now that it is not the mere cost of a trip or who went that is important, but the value to the country of that trip. If it turns out that the prime minister and her entourage spent $20 million on the travel to China, then we should want to know that the returns to Jamaica are at least equal to or, preferably, surpass what we spent.

Every government has to travel on behalf of our country. We all know that. Jamaica is an active participant in the global family of nations and, in any event, we can't afford to be left out of the critical international economic talks and social programmes, especially since resources are so few and the takers so many.

Frankly, we would prefer to see more attention being paid to the urgent business of Jamaica's indebtedness to the United Nations. It was barely mentioned in the news, but last Friday Foreign Minister Mr A J Nicholson, in answering questions in the Senate, disclosed something we regard as troubling, to say the least.

Jamaica now owes the United Nations Organisation so much money that we could lose our voting rights, if we don't pay up by the end of this year, we are told.

According to Mr Nicholson, who is also leader of Government Business in the Senate, Jamaica's outstanding arrears to the UN Regular Budget stands at US$354,843, with an additional US$103,002 owed to the UN Capital Master Plan and US$860,835 to UN peacekeeping operations.

We felt Senator Nicholson's pain when he also disclosed that Jamaica had already lost voting rights in the Commonwealth Foundation and the Commonwealth Youth Programme, and we are currently in arrears with most of the international organisations of which we are a member.

This is a crying shame on us. How will the world respect us? Will we not be seen in the corridors of these global bodies as a hanger-on with all talk and no money to put where our mouth is?

Our national impecuniosity is evident but we have always managed to walk with our heads high because we paid our debt. That has always been a mark of the spirit of a proud Jamaican people. We wonder how Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips can sleep at nights, knowing that we have been reduced to the status of international paupers.

Jamaica may well owe a great debt of gratitude to Opposition Senator Robert Montague whose questions in the Senate brought this shameful situation into the light of day.





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