Fu­elling the vi­sion

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Peter Espeut is a so­ci­ol­o­gist and de­vel­op­ment sci­en­tist. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

THE PO­LIT­I­CAL com­men­ta­tors have ob­served that the cam­paign of the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP) lead­ing up to this week’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions lacked en­ergy. The JEEP had run out of gas, per­haps. It takes cash to run elec­tions and to buy votes, and the PNP was short of po­lit­i­cal fund­ing, which is a story in it­self.

Why did the pri­vate sec­tor with­hold con­tri­bu­tions from the PNP? Surely, the re­cent cam­paign dona­tions scan­dal was part of it. If peo­ple are un­cer­tain whether the hard­earned cash they shell out to their party to help them win an elec­tion is go­ing to end up in some­one’s pri­vate pocket, maybe they won’t give any­thing at all, or maybe just a smalls. Is this an op­por­tune time to re­new the call for trans­parency in cam­paign fi­nanc­ing, with full dis­clo­sure of sources and amounts, and pub­lished an­nual ac­counts?

This is part of it, but it can’t be the whole story of why the PNP lacked fund­ing. When you are in op­po­si­tion, and you have no con­tracts or waivers to of­fer, that is when you know who your real friends are. Since there was no ‘quo’, there won’t be any ‘quid’. Maybe the PNP has for­got­ten how to do real fundrais­ing.

What both­ers me about the J$600-mil­lion pre-elec­tion bush­ing ex­er­cise was not just that it hap­pened (this sort of thing al­ways hap­pens be­fore elec­tions and be­fore Christ­mas and In­de­pen­dence), but that the con­tracts to do this Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) Crash Pro­gramme were not ten­dered (Could a PNP con­trac­tor have ever won it?), which means that it be­came an op­por­tu­nity for kick­backs. This sort of po­lit­i­cal work is usu­ally given to po­lit­i­cally af­fil­i­ated mid­dle­men who hire the green-shirted ‘bush­ers’, pay them low wages, and dis­pose of the rest in their best in­ter­ests.

SURE EV­I­DENCE

In the first place, this whole episode is sure ev­i­dence of the po­lit­i­cal naivete and in­ex­pe­ri­ence of the JLP. Long ago, the PNP an­nounced that no or­ange shirts were to be worn dur­ing pub­lic road­work, to make it that much harder to de­tect par­ti­san work al­lo­ca­tion. Why didn’t the JLP do the same, right up front? The JLP has been out of power for a long time and has for­got­ten the run­nings.

In the sec­ond place, we need to know who the con­trac­tors are. This is the sort of work that Dudus and his PNP equiv­a­lents used to do. Is this J$600-mil­lion bush-clear­ing project po­lit­i­cal cam­paign fi­nanc­ing by an­other name? The PNP is com­plain­ing; the party knows the run­nings. None of their con­trac­tors got any of the work. That is their real prob­lem.

Will we ever see au­dited fi­nan­cials from th­ese con­trac­tors show­ing how the money was spent? How much was paid to the bush­ers, and how much went else­where? Surely, any en­tity re­ceiv­ing pub­lic money must have an obli­ga­tion to show that the money was prop­erty spent and that the coun­try has re­ceived value for money spent?

I look for­ward to the re­port of the con­trac­tor gen­eral into this mat­ter.

REAL POWER

Surely, the work­ings of this elec­tion must show the pri­vate sec­tor where their real power lies in the Ja­maican po­lit­i­cal sys­tem: With­hold your po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions and the par­ties are un­able to func­tion as they wish to and are brought to their knees. The pri­vate sec­tor has an obli­ga­tion to lobby hard to en­sure that their po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions are not used for any ne­far­i­ous pur­pose, like to pur­chase guns and am­mu­ni­tion, or to buy votes.

This is the time for in­flu­ence to be brought to bear on all par­ties to rid Ja­maica’s body politic of the scourge of po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion and in­flu­ence ped­dling.

Be­fore the Fe­bru­ary gen­eral elec­tion, the party cur­rently in power seemed sym­pa­thetic to this idea. Maybe the PNP, in its fallen state, can be brought to see full trans­parency as be­ing in its best in­ter­est.

The An­drew Hol­ness Gov­ern­ment now holds the reins of both cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ment and can work full steam ahead to bring eco­nomic growth and pros­per­ity to this coun­try. Should they do noth­ing else but re­duce po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion, they would be more than half­way to­wards their goal.

I chal­lenge the JLP to hold na­tional con­sul­ta­tions to build con­sen­sus to­wards a na­tional vi­sion. Why don’t they dust off the Vi­sion 2030 doc­u­ment from their shelves and spend some time in­ves­ti­gat­ing how those wor­thy ideas may be im­ple­mented?

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