Getting a fair share of that cake

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, December 10, 2018

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Jamaica is reeling from the auditor general's report on Petrojam. The US$1,000 birthday cake conjures up images of Queen Marie Antoinette's response to he r starving people's cry for bread: “Let them eat cake.” And so, members of the royal court of Petrojam became so spoiled on public funds that, like Marie Antoinette, they are now facing the guillotine of public wrath.

In earlier reports we learned that the former well-qualified human resource manager was replaced with an individual who was neither qualified nor approved according to hiring guidelines. The big question is: How could a government agency get away with so much for so long?

This column has declared more than once that the Jamaican economy is being hamstrung by “the conspiracy of mediocrity”, and the Petrojam story reminds us that it is a conspiracy of mediocrity enabled by a conspiracy of corruption.

This report increases my sympathy for the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force who are currently engaged in drawn-out negotiations for a salary increase. They are out there on tough beats in the dead of night, while the free-spending Petrojam folks are sleeping soundly in their well-feathered beds.

We have been hearing the word governance being bandied about by administration after administration and yet it seems that Jamaican citizens and their businesses have been bearing the burden of inaccurately calculated gas prices and a $5 billion loss of goods.

The former managing director of Shell Company in Jamaica, Howard Hamilton, in an interview on CVM TV last week, noted that the equipment at the Petrojam refinery dates back to 1962 and that it is so obsolete that there are no available parts for repairs, so these have to be made at very high cost. He declared that Jamaica c1998 could import oil from Curacao for much less than the consumer is now paying for Petrojam's products. He visualised Petrojam's premises as a place for the receival, storage and distribution of imported petroleum products.

Congratulations to the Jamaica media for keeping this story alive and drilling down so that we can understand the full extent of this outrage. This must not be a nine-day wonder because there is too much poverty in this country for such excess to be tolerated.

Congratulations to the people of Spain on the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of their constitution. The country has accomplished much during this relatively short period. At a recent discussion on the Spanish Constitution led by Ambassador of Spain to Jamaica Josef Bosch, he noted, “Forty years have elapsed in which Spain has moved from being a recipient of Official Development Aid, according to OECD standards, to becoming a developed economy among the 10 more industrialised economies of the planet, the sixth biggest car maker in the world, and the second in Europe, second only to Germany.”

The country has also excelled in agriculture and, of course, tourism: “Spain is also the orchard of Europe and a world leader in genetics, as well as in irrigation and greenhouse techniques. Spain happens to excel in agriculture and in tourism, those very sectors which are of particular interest to Jamaica. The World Economic Forum has placed Spain as the most competitive country in tourism and, according to the World Tourism Organization, it has the second largest earnings in this field, only behind the USA.”

The ambassador saluted the excellent relationship between our two countries. We should be aware that as our Prime Minister gains increasing favour on the world stage, we have great opportunities on the horizon. Let us not allow cronyism and corruption to stand in our way.

Sister Paschal celebrates a century

Sister Mary Paschal Figueroa's 100th birthday was celebrated in Mandeville last Saturday hosted by fellow Sisters of Mercy, led by Sister Susan Fraser, Sister Mimi Krusling and Sister Benedict Chung at the St John Bosco complex. This was preceded by mass concelebrated by four archbishops, priests and deacons.

A graduate of Convent of Mercy 'Alpha' Academy, Sister Paschal has blazed a unique trail in education and hospital administration. As I related in a previous column, the intrepid nun was St Catherine High School's principal from 1972 to 1990, and is credited with being responsible for its growth into one of the largest high schools in the Caribbean with an enrolment of over 3,000 students.

It is remarkable that out of her resolve to make the once all-girls school co-educational, despite many protests, Jamaica has benefited from the service of two of its outstanding male graduates — Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston Kenneth Richards.

Her stewardship at St Joseph's Hospital was also legendary. It is said that it was the only time that the hospital made a profit. Emcee and past student Hugh Douse regaled us with stories of Sister's tough love and the tributes spoke of a woman who cares deeply for the well-being of every student and employee in her charge. Her simple way of living has made a profound difference to thousands. A well-scored 100: Happy Birthday, Sister Paschal!

Congratulations, Colonel Needham!

Protocol guru and perennial volunteer Merrick Needham was recently commissioned as a colonel in the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) — the first Jamaican civilian ever to have been so honoured. It was Merrick Needham who shared his considerable knowledge and time in the establishment of the JDF Museum at Up Park Camp, in the training of aides-de-camp for several governors general, and in the development of the national honours ceremony at King's House. As a rookie public relations officer in Carifesta 76, I was blessed to have been mentored by this kind gentlemen who I am honoured to call my friend. Heartiest congratulations, my dear Merrick!

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot. com

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