Shocked by Holness’s communist-like Government

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

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Dear Editor,

With the election over, many Jamaicans have gone back to their daily routine. In the midst of the transition and celebration they have forgotten that their role as voters goes beyond simply electing a Government, but also ensuring that the governance structure created by the new Government reflects the tradition of democracy.

The structure should be one for and by the people; not one for the prime minister and his party. It is within that context that I am shocked and dismayed at the communist-like power that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has given himself. Based on the
Assignment of Subjects and Departments, Agencies and Other Public Bodies document dated March 7, Andrew Holness is prime minister; minister of defence, economic growth and job creation.

On the face of it, this raises no questions. However, when we drill deeper a few things are revealed. The ministers without portfolio have no real strategic power, but are implementers or mere managers. All strategic and policy power rests in, is rolled up into, and must be approved by Andrew Holness, the minister with the portfolios.

Additionally, outside of the traditional departments/agencies for defence and the Cabinet, Andrew Holness now controls departments with large budget allocations and reach. He has more combined ministries, departments and agencies under him compared to his other ministers with portfolio. That is unheard of, except in Cuba, Russia or China. Could the prime minister tell Jamaicans why he has given himself so much power? Does he understand that in doing so he has created a communist-style governance structure? How can Jamaicans be assured that he will not use this large concentration of power to his advantage?

Can the prime minister relieve himself of some of this power to protect the democratic institution of government? On page 15 of its 2016 manifesto, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) promised that it would implement "a more appropriate allocation of responsibilities…to avoid overlapping and cumbersome bureaucracy". Is this communist-style concentration of power into one person what the JLP was talking about? This kind of structure will not avoid overlapping and cumbersome bureaucracy. Instead, it will give the prime minister absolute power over people, departments and financial resources. That is dangerous for the Jamaican democracy.

Monica Simpson

Kingston 5

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