Sunday Brew — January 19, 2020

Sunday Brew — January 19, 2020

wit HG HELPS
Editor-at-large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 19, 2020

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Bobby Pickersgill's CDF amnesia

The call by veteran Member of Parliament Robert Pickersgill for elected officials to get an increase in their annual allocations under the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) comes as a strange one.

Sure, there have been voices calling for a jump in the annual allocation, now at $20 million, but I find it weird that one is now coming from Pickersgill, a former senior Cabinet minister in former People's National Party Administrations, for more money to be made available to MPs, when it was his Administration that stifled it along the way.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding introduced the historic programme to Parliament in 2008, at which time MPs were allocated $40 million annually to help with the funding of projects in their constituencies.

Although there were mutterings against it by politicians opposed to it because they would not be able to score political points from it, everyone in Gordon House gobbled it up.

The figure dropped to $20 million by 2009 because of the global economic crisis, and was further slashed to $15 million in 2010 when the economy got worse. When the Government changed in December 2011, the 'holier than thou' Administration of Portia Simpson Miller did not see the need to move it from $15 million. It was only after Andrew Holness became Prime Minister again in February 2016 that it was raised to $20 million a year.

I wonder if Pickersgill remembers all that? The PNP Administration had the glorious chance of lifting the CDF nearer to its originally proposed two per cent of the annual budget, but refused to budge. Now, we are hearing one of the men who presided over that inaction bawling living eye water that MPs deserve more. Can you believe it?

Here is a clear example of one of the things that we as a people suffer from in this country. Only when some politicians are in opposition do they find the voice, and shed crocodile tears in their bid to change some things that they could have altered long before.

What would have happened to Pickersgill had he told Simpson Miller as prime minister then, that she was wrong to have kept the CDF at $15 million for over four years, and demand that she puts it back to its original value? He could have faced the consequences had he defied her publicly, but the punishment would have been a mere shaking of Portia's frock tail.

He would have been a bigger man then, not the shadow of himself now that is making these sounds that nobody finds genuine and meaningful.

Think again, Dr Clarke

Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke has got carried away with the view that members of Jamaica's Parliament should not be given special consideration for salary increases.

He told the House of Representatives last Tuesday that a general review of public sector salaries was being done and should be completed by year-end. He also suggested to his parliamentary colleagues that, in effect, they should not push the case of their salaries ahead of others.

This sort of simplistic view is one of the reasons that MPs are placed under such unrealistic pressure by their constituents. There ought to be no question in anyone's mind that the $300,000 a month being paid to MPs is inadequate. It's really a no-brainer. So for Dr Clarke, the brilliant man that he is, to be insisting that MPs have to wait like most others, he simply misses the point and merely joins the chorus that the elected officials are getting enough.

And, really, for a profession that is trying to attract top quality people to its ranks, that level of remuneration is not the kind of fertiliser you want to be sprinkling into the soil of progress.

The sad situation which involves MPs is that if, after leaving politics, they suffer financially, the same people they assisted greatly through the pittance they receive as salaries, are the same ones who would turn around and say he/she did not 'tief' enough.

On the other hand, if an MP, after having left the political scene gets so fat that his trousers are dropping off him, owns several houses which he did not acquire when he started out in the profession, and can afford to have a curry goat, oxtail and liquor get-together every weekend, almost everyone will say that a 'tief' him tief while he served the people.

I am still baffled as to why some people go into elective politics. It's really not worth the stress.

Meaningless prayer breakfast

It is an annual ritual – every year the men of the cloth get together and bare their souls at something called a National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, which is as silly as it sounds.

Last Thursday, the Mickey Mouse-like movie marked its 40th box office show at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in St Andrew with the speakers saying the same things that we have all heard in the last four decades.

It's interesting that the more prayer breakfasts we have, the more crime increases, so clearly, the pastors have not been connecting with the criminals. Therefore, might I propose that as of next year we target a community that has crime challenges, take the prayer breakfast there, and appeal to the criminals. That's a strategy that could be repeated elsewhere.

The good thing too is that gunmen, so alleged, could be invited to take part in what could be billed a peace offering, and while the portions of a Pegasus breakfast might not give the kind of bellyful that the usual eight flour dumplings, salt mackerel, salt fish or brown stew chicken back will provide to some of them, it is usually quite tasty and nutritious.

So let us have a relaxed prayer breakfast henceforth. The dress code would have to be retrofitted to include T-shits, tights, and slippers because at the end of the day comfort does matter, and many of those who attend the annual Pegasus ritual seem so uncomfortable in their suits with choking ties, that the food often gets into a fight with the throat.

Will Patrick Roberts really represent the PNP again?

Word making the rounds is that among the candidates chosen to represent the Opposition People's National Party in the next general election due next year but which will be held this year is one Patrick Roberts, the councillor for the Molynes Division in the Kingston & St Andrew Municipal Corporation.

It would mark the fifth time that Roberts would be unsuccessful at the polls, as he would, again, go up against none other than Prime Minister Andrew Holness in St Andrew West Central.

What a shame on the PNP! After four failed attempts by one who cannot even assemble a sentence in English, the party appears to have again defied all logic by sticking with the born loser. Again, the question must be asked: What does the PNP see in Roberts that he has been named to contest every general election in St Andrew West Central since 1997, and in a seat that was held three times before by the party – 1976 to 1980, 1989 to 1993, and 1993 to 1997?

Does he have secrets for some people? Is he so indispensable?

Come on PNP, do better than that. The people are watching, and they are learning. It is contemptuous!


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