THE Sessional Select Committee of Parliament on Internal and External Affairs yesterday said it will, as its first order of business, examine what impact the partial shutdown of the United States Government will have on Jamaica.
Early yesterday, news broke that the shutdown, which had been looming, had begun in part after the Democratic-led Senate rejected a House Republican effort to negotiate a solution to a dispute over the health care overhaul otherwise known as Obamacare. The suggestion was to delay Obamacare for a year to free temporary funding of the federal government beyond the start of this week.
Following a 54 to 46 vote in the Senate, the proposal is back in the hands of the Congress. According to reports, United States President Barack Obama must ink a new budget before tomorrow if the US government is to remain up and running. If not, forecasts are that this would cause the first shutdown of services in 17 years, with reportedly some 700,000 government workers being sent off on unpaid leave with no guarantee of backpay once the stalemate ends.
Yesterday, during the first official meeting of the Committee to decide on agenda issues going forward, Government Member Mikael Phillips put the issue on the table as one to be examined.
"Are we going to also look at the United States shutdown and how it would impact us? And, if it is to take place in the future how will it impact us? You hear talk in the media how if their economy was shut down for three days or more that would also impact the Caribbean," Phillips wanted to know.
"I think it is something we need to look at on how we can buffer ourselves when a major credit partner [in experiencing] problems...," he said.
In agreeing, Committee Chairman Derrick Smith said the issue was "so immediate", the committee would need to schedule it as "the first item to be brought up" ahead of the others already on its agenda.
"That is something we should really look at because, speaking frankly, the trickle-down effect on Jamaica is not very clear to me and that is happening now so perhaps we should start there," Smith said yesterday.
The Internal and External Affairs Committee has the duty of examining all matters relating to the foreign policy of the government and advising of all implications. It is also charged with examining treaties and other international agreements and advising parliament on their likely impact on the country.
In the meantime, the committee has pinpointed issues relating to national security, difficulties faced by Jamaican nationals in accessing Caribbean countries even though they hold Caricom (Caribbean Community) passports and the implications for the free movement of labour, the arguments for the decriminalisation of ganja as well as the role and the future of the commonwealth as agenda items.
Yesterday, Smith said the committee, which has not met in quite a long time, would be using the remaining time in the parliamentary year to cover significant ground.