All Jamaicans are equal, but some are 'more equal'

Sunday, March 04, 2018

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Last month in this space we wrote: “Too many good ideas go to government to die.”

That was in respect of the Sandz, the party which blocked the Palisadoes strip leading to and from the international airport, and the US$5,000 grant to entertainer Ms Shauna McKenzie, more popularly known as Etana, under the artiste Ambassador Programme and Tour Support Programme.

We can now add, unfortunately, the Jamaican Athletes Insurance Plan (JAIP), under which we are told by Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange that more than 1,300 athletes from 28 sports associations are now registered.

Miss Grange informed the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament last Thursday that the plan, which was implemented in 2016, provides group health, life and personal accident coverage for beneficiaries aged seven to 75.

More critically, the minister said that the Government was looking to increase the number of athletes benefiting under the scheme, telling us: “There is one major sporting association that is not fully cooperating in ensuring that the athletes are registered, and this is a major challenge, but we will be addressing that matter.

“There are brokers and there are others who want to create their own insurance, and, as a result, they are not ensuring that their athletes are signed up for this programme.”

The country needs to be told a bit more than what Ms Grange told the Parliament. For example, why are professional athletes, who are doing what is essentially their job, being forced into a $60-million a year State-run insurance programme? And what is wrong with a sporting association wanting to arrange insurance for its own athletes?

It's not dissimilar to the Etana grant to support her 32-city North American concert tour. The question remains: Why was taxpayers' money given to a seasoned entertainer who is working for a living, just like any other Jamaican?

The culture ministry said that the grant programme was a way to enhance the reggae brand and provide additional marketing for destination Jamaica. We assume that is also the basis on which the insurance scheme was established.

But again: How is the return on the investment by the beleaguered Jamaican taxpayer to be measured? Are these grants and the health insurance scheme accessible to every individual or organisation travelling overseas for activities, such as sporting, artistic, educational, or scientific events that can be said to promote Brand Jamaica?

The explanation that the JAIP is being financed by the Sports Development Foundation, National Health Fund, Tourism Enhancement Fund, and the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education Fund does not wash.

Surely, that is $60 million that could go to Jamaica's hard-pressed constabulary force and the social programmes as part of the under-resourced zones of special operations, to fight crime and the runaway murder rate.

What the Jamaican Government is saying is that some Jamaican workers are more special and more deserving of State assistance than others. And we are not talking about the disabled or indigent.

In other words, all Jamaicans are equal, but some are 'more equal'.




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