Part­ner­ship? What part­ner­ship?

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Ron­ald Th­waites Ron­ald Th­waites is mem­ber of par­lia­ment for Cen­tral Kingston and op­po­si­tion spokesman on ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­

WHEN THE present Gov­ern­ment took of­fice by the slimmest of mar­gins eight months ago, the prime min­is­ter spoke of a com­mit­ment to trans­parency and part­ner­ship with the Op­po­si­tion so that the dif­fi­cult tasks of struc­tural re­form in al­most ev­ery sec­tor of the so­ci­ety could pro­ceed seam­lessly and so dead­lock in the cham­ber would be avoided.

Time and again, I have ap­plauded Aud­ley Shaw, who has seemed to ma­ture from his erst­while rau­cous ways to cel­e­brate how much the na­tion can achieve if we are lit­tle con­cerned about which party is to be praised or blamed.

Ev­ery sin­gle voice in the pri­vate sec­tor, civil so­ci­ety, the Church and our cred­i­tors have recog­nised that Ja­maica’s eco­nomic path brooks lit­tle de­vi­a­tion and is so ar­du­ous as to re­quire a high mea­sure of con­fi­dence-build­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion among po­lit­i­cal ac­tors.

And yes, one or two min­is­ters have gone out of their way to be cor­dial and con­sul­ta­tive with their op­po­si­tion coun­ter­parts. It was heart­en­ing to hear Phillip Paulwell ac­knowl­edge the comity be­tween him­self and An­drew Wheat­ley, for ex­am­ple.


When the Eco­nomic Growth Coun­cil met with the Op­po­si­tion some­time ago, Chair­man Michael Lee-Chin ac­knowl­edged that a high mea­sure of po­lit­i­cal co­op­er­a­tion was in­dis­pens­able for sus­tained growth, and com­mit­ted him­self to be­ing the sol­vent be­tween some­times ac­ri­mo­nious forces.

Well, he should have been in Gor­don House last Tues­day and Wed­nes­day when the very old-style min­is­ter of min­ing, Mike Henry, brought a state­ment fun­da­men­tally chang­ing the way in which Ja­maica earns from the baux­ite in­dus­try, in­creas­ing the amount of earth to be scraped off the St Ann hill­sides for a fur­ther 25 years be­yond present con­tracts and in­sist­ing that the deal had to be signed less than a day later.

From the wordy and hard-to-fol­low min­is­te­rial state­ment, one gleans that un­der the new agree­ment with the suc­ces­sors to the No­randa en­ter­prise, the baux­ite levy is to be down­graded and aug­mented with a profit-shar­ing ar­range­ment that will be “ring-fenced” (what­ever that means) against cre­ative ac­count­ing and trans­fer pricing. This prece­dent is likely to af­fect our re­la­tions with ev­ery other min­ing en­tity with which we do busi­ness.

All these is­sues de­serve the most care­ful par­lia­men­tary in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

So the Op­po­si­tion protested and, pre­dictably, the ar­ro­gance from the gov­ern­ment benches was turned against the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party for dar­ing to ob­ject and, as Henry would re­cite on Wed­nes­day, blame­wor­thy for all the ills of the baux­ite sec­tor. Among the hoot­ers, Chuck seemed tipsy and Charles doesn’t even bother try­ing to con­trol Des­mond.


No­body is be­ing thin-skinned here. But what kind of part­ner­ship can you ex­pect in the face of such high-handed and ar­bi­trary pol­i­cy­mak­ing and pre­sen­ta­tion?

Un­til An­drew Hol­ness in­ter­vened last Tues­day, this Gov­ern­ment had not thought it nec­es­sary even to tell the names of the other party to the shot­gun mar­riage be­ing ar­ranged with the Ja­maican peo­ple.

If there’s one thing I have learned in po­lit­i­cal life, it’s that the Ja­maican peo­ple don’t like ar­ro­gance.

Gen­uine part­ner­ship should mean that there must be no sign­ing un­til the en­tire draft agree­ment with our proposed part­ners has been shared. Min­is­ter Henry has promised me that all the agree­ments will be made avail­able, but it will only add in­sult to in­jury if bind­ing con­tracts have been con­cluded in the mean­while.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion would have scored big with a sober and ma­tur­ing elec­torate if such an im­por­tant episode had been ap­proached dif­fer­ently.

Part­ner­ship took a knock­out blow in Par­lia­ment last week.


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