Political parties must not give way to the 'lootocrats'

Sunday, June 02, 2019

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A person should become a member or activist of a political party for the opportunity to serve their country in the noble task of nation-building.

Unfortunately, too many become members of a political party for what they can gain, not to give national service, at minimum expecting a high-paying job, a prestigious appointment to a board, the award of a national honour, or some such reward.

Even more insidious are those who make financial donations because they expect a return several times more valuable than the amount they gave. They expect to be awarded lucrative contracts and to have insider information, giving them the advantage in seizing opportunities.

Another desired benefit is where certain regulations, eg building permits, are waived, or mandated public procurement procedures are not followed — to the advantage of the party member or financier. Regrettably, there is no shortage of such examples.

We know that a great many who work in political campaigns expect to be rewarded in some tangible way beyond the election of an effective government. They expect their successful political representative to “let off something”.

Of course, there are also the party hangers-on who expect the party secretariats or Member of Parliament (MP)/councillor to sustain them, even when they are not in power.

Indeed, the Politically or personally connected person can have any job without the required qualification, and without any pertinent experience. Petrojam and the Caribbean Maritime University are only two of the entities against which such allegations are being made.

These people are 'lootocrats', because they are looting the State apparatus, looting because they are gaining without contributing or reaping where they have not sown.

Part of the terrible burden on political parties is often the elected politicians who, when they must demit office, expect to be guaranteed employment for as long as they are alive. For them, permanent employment by the State is an entitlement.

The most disgraceful expression of this sense of entitlement is the appointment of undistinguished ex-ministers of government or backbenched MPs as ambassadors, or them being posted to overseas jobs for which they have no qualification or relevant experience. Physical and mental health are not requirements when 'man have to eat a food'.

Look for more of these types of appointments as the governing parties try to refresh their slate of candidates before an upcoming general election.

Being a politician should not mean one is entitled to permanently feeding off the State; a financial donor to a political party is not entitled to a government contract, nor is a political activist entitled to a job in a public enterprise.

Perhaps these expectations of reward for political activity are linked to our perennial poverty as a country, or the fact that way too few of our politicians are not independently wealthy before offering themselves for public service.

Whatever the reasons, we should continue to stress the importance of Jamaicans serving — because it is noble to serve our fellow man and to give back to the country of our birth.

A political party is not an employment agency, and the leaders should not be afraid to make that clear.

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