KINGSTON, Jamaica — Political analyst, Kevin O’Brien Chang, says he doesn’t believe the $18-million the Government spent on campaign efforts for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith’s failed Commonwealth Secretary General candidacy, is excessive.
In an interview with OBSERVER ONLINE Chang said considering the logistics of campaigning for an international position, the amount “is no big money.”
“Yes, we want to know how much she spent and the country has to judge if it’s a reasonable amount. A hundred and thousand US change, that is no big money, considering all the logistics and moving around that has to be done. It’s not no dibby-dibby position, this is maybe the second biggest position in the world…It doesn’t seem that great to me,” Chang argued.
Chang added that people wouldn’t have reacted with surprise at the amount spent if Johnson Smith had won, because, “people love winners.”
He said it is common practice for a country that has put a candidate forward for an international position to bear some of the expenses.
“Nobody takes it on themselves and say I’m going to run [for] this. It is the norm all over the world and they are always funded by their country. None of these candidates to my knowledge ever funded themselves totally,” Chang stated.
Referencing the World Athletics Championships and the fact that countries pay for their athletes to participate, Chang, said he doesn’t understand why the public find it difficult that the Government paid for Johnson Smith’s campaign.
“The Secretary General, you have the prominence of 50-something countries. Plus, you can channel, not illegally, where you can give your country aid. That’s what the Commonwealth does; give aid in terms of training and all that kind of things. I’m at a loss for people saying it wouldn’t help Jamaica,” Chang explained.
However, another political analyst, Shalman Scott, disagreed with Chang’s position.
“There wasn't going to be anything much for Jamaica to gain from it apart from the status that Kamina Johnson Smith would have, because Jamaica and most of the country that are together in that organisation, they really don’t have that much political clout to influence other people in respect to the demands that they put towards them. It’s a whole cluster of up-coming and poor countries that come together and making noise here and there,” Scott retorted.
“There are one and two powerful countries inside the group called the Commonwealth, but at the same time the question is, what is their capacity to inflict injury, which is the key factor in negotiation, be it regional, international or local? It’s called your bargaining power. It’s your capacity to inflict injury that will cause people to look out for you,” he added.
Scott further stated that Johnson Smith might not have had the “bargaining power” that would benefit Jamaica.
“People from other places have also led these organisations before and in some cases and they have not made much difference, because they have so many other factors and considerations at play, when it comes to international diplomacy,” he said, adding that in many instances these organisations are “talk-shops” that mostly issue news releases and statements and speeches.
On Sunday, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a release detailing the expense for the campaign and attendance to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in Kigali, Rwanda in June. It was revealed that roughly $25 million and $18.2 million was spent on the Summit and campaign, respectively. Johnson Smith lost the position by a 23/20 vote.