Why the contrived outrage over the Montego Bay bypassMonday, May 17, 2021
Once again we, as a nation, are confronted with another episode of the sitcom named 'Who is the biggest hypocrite?' And, it's becoming a tad boring, as we are basically seeing and hearing the same cast of characters doing the same foolishness, only on a different topic.
The latest instalment in the long-running series concerns the proposed Montego Bay bypass. First, it was some masterbuilders — who, really and truly, few people listen to anyway — creating a scene to get attention. That group's objection, as I understood it, was to the awarding of the contract for the project to China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) without a formal tender process. Its argument is based upon whether there will be value for money and the overlooking of local contractors to build a roadway financed by taxpayers. To me, none of those concerns have any merit.
Firstly, when there was talk about using borrowed money to do the work there was no objection raised as to whether Jamaica would be getting value for money, and why is it that it wasn't put to tender. None! Nobody raised any objection to the Chinese building the roadway. Who was going to be on the hook to pay back the loan? The Jamaican taxpayers, of course! So why didn't they raise that objection then?
Then came the Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding in Parliament essentially grandstanding as if he were trying to convince the world he cares about the Jamaican taxpayer. His point about the Government selling out Jamaicans is laughable, at best. And his arguments about value for money only requires a review of the facts. Golding's case is even more egregious as he was with the People's National Party (PNP) who negotiated the loan that was to build the bypass initially — the details of which were not discussed publicly. Its stance is so weak that when he called for a divide in the House he couldn't even secure all of his “likkle bit” of Members of Parliament to support him.
The sad thing about the situation is that Jamaica is once again seeing the old guard rearing its head.
As long as I can remember, as a young man growing up in this country, everything was done with other people's money — most of it tragically wasted. I never thought the day would come when the money Government collects in taxes could go towards actually building this country and not paying down debt. Never thought that could happen. So to live to see the day, and to see so many people who ought to know better trying to sully this initiative, it hurts me to the core.
Nobody can question that CHEC constructs good infrastructure on time and within budget. As a matter of fact, since they came into this country, building infrastructure, I have not heard of any of its projects being plagued by cost overruns. We used to have that when even one pothole was to be fixed by local contractors.
But there is also an important side to this that many have overlooked, maybe wilfully or because they don't know how international deals work, and that is, China, through CHEC, was here for us when nobody else was. And it is befitting that we, as a nation, repay that kindness. We all should remember that the French left the project and China came to our rescue to finish the north-south roadway. Not because we can now afford to build something without borrowing from the Chinese, we must kick them to the kerb. We can't be afford to be that ungrateful.
We must understand that this is indeed a proud moment for our country, that finally we can start building our nation with our money, and not other people's own. At the very least we can say this project is, at last, even on a small basis, empowering our independence.
Why are certain people desperately trying to sabotage this? I will never understand.