Letters to the Editor

It's high time we audited Ja's debt

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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Dear Editor,

Jamaica has a high level of debt. Pardon me for stating the blatantly obvious, but just to hammer home that point let me state that Jamaica's debt-to-GDP ratio is at 115 per cent. In other words, each Jamaican citizen owes an individual total of roughly $800,000.

This level of indebtedness has taken a massive toll on the nation. This is visible in the return to the International Monetary Fund and its stringent regulations in order to get by, or in the fact that borrowing on the international stage is rather taxing. But the most damning thing about all of our debt is that we really have nothing to show for it.

The billions in debt that we have to repay is in need of auditing. The fact of the matter is that (and I'm only speaking of the 1980s onwards) for all of the billions we owe, the nation (to use a technical terms) still looks like scrap.

Over the years, money borrowed for bridge building in parish X is spent, yet no bridge. Money earmarked for road repairs vanishes and the roads are left to further cave in. And there are other examples.

Much of the money owed was borrowed because the State wished to “improve the lives of its citizens”, and yet here we are, 37 years after the economy was returned to pure capitalism and a willing credit market, with nothing to show for it except an ungodly level of debt, nothing relating to infrastructure. And the sick joke is that well-connected individuals have got rich, coincidentally of course.

The people have not benefited. We, as a society, have received no gains from this borrowed money, but we are left to foot the bill. This should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. We should demand a forensic audit of this debt, or as much of it that can be audited, so we can find out just where the money went and, more importantly, who got it.

Now, I'm not of the opinion that the guilty parties, once found, would (or even could) pay back the money, but it would be a massive start. It would show that theft from the State is no longer something to turn a blind eye to, and it would also send a strong message to those who wish to dip into the public purse for their own benefit.

We may well be in over our heads when it comes to this debt.

Alexander Scott





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