On Tuesday 5th July the Prime Minister’s hired mouthpiece, Darnley LeBourne was more eager than usual to show that like his boss he was protecting his job.
On the mentioned day, LeBourne called Newsspin to chide the host for not dealing properly with a press release that he (the prime minister’s mouthpiece) sent to the radio station. Mr Poleon (host) acquiesced and allowed the irritatingly bellicose singer for his supper to read the press statement live and without interruption.
Information disseminated through the press release included the revelation that government agreed to make a twenty five thousand dollars ($25, 000) donation to the National Consumers’ Association. It was revealed as well that the largesse extended to granting the Iyanola Council for the Advancement of Rastafari money to be used towards, among other things, the payment for the Association’s office space.
Has the government not learnt the dictum that it is infinitely more productive to teach a person to fish than to give him/her some fish? Does the Prime Minister, despite his lip service to development, think it is constructive to ostentatiously provide thousands of dollars to any group he visits or which visits him?
I appreciate, and will readily concede that helping the Iyanola Council for the Advancement of Rastafari set up an office may be an excellent example of building capacity. It would be particularly instructive to know whether the Council offered a (strategic) plan that seeks to transform the organization into a viable enterprise which will better manage the agricultural land that the government has promised to cede to the Council. If there was a plan was it sufficiently discussed at the public relations meeting that the Prime Minister held with the select NGO’s? Without proper discussion of that plan (assuming there is such a plan) it would not be prudent for the government to will away taxpayers money to any group. Further, without an appropriate plan one can predict that the Council will have to give up the office space soon after the money government has provided has been used.
There are many other occasions when it appears that the government simply hands out money to groups— just like that. Very recently, the government, through Senator Guy Mayers, gave fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) to an “organizing committee” intent on holding a ten thousand-man march. It should be noted that this committee is not a registered club, it is does not have any structure, no constitution. To my knowledge, this is an ad hoc group that emerged to organize a march—yet, in this economically painful period, the government gave them fifty thousand dollars. I can think of no other case of such reprehensible irresponsibility by any government. One may argue that the march had good intentions; let us examine that excuse.
The march’s objective was to raise the awareness of the role that men must play in the lives of their children. The government’s stated objective, as expressed during the march by the Minister for Housing, is the decrease of socially unacceptable behaviour. I am unaware of any scientific evidence which support the supposition that by holding a march there will be a decrease in socially unacceptable behaviour. If there is no established causal (as opposed to casual) relationship between organized marches and the decrease in socially unacceptable behaviour why did the government dole out that money to the march organizers? The hard reality is that no government should whittle away its coffers so consistently on activities that have little or no developmental value. Let me admit that I would be less apprehensive if there were in place a robust reporting mechanism which would allow government’s auditors the opportunity to verify that the money was not used to enrich (literally) the organizers. Perhaps that mechanism will be the subject of a timely press release.
I am aware that we should put our resources, particularly our money, where we put our mouths. I will contend however that it is an entirely different matter when it comes to distributing other people’s money. In such cases fiduciary duties dictate that we should be even more cautious and that we should demand verifiable evidence for benefits ascribed to any cause before committing other people’s money to that cause. How many of us are convinced that Guy Mayers in his capacity as Managing Director of the Mirror Publishing Company would donate more than one thousand ($1000) to the Ten Thousand Man March. Yet Mayers the government minister found no misgivings in squeezing fifty thousand dollars from taxpayers to gift Callistus Jn Louis, one of the main brains behind the march. How much do you think Guy Mayers the private citizen would contribute to the march; two hundred dollars—perhaps?
Yet government minister Mayers willingly gave fifty thousand dollars to help organize the march. I hold that Minister Mayers failed in his fiduciary duty to protect the public when he recommended that the government’s treasury should bankroll what was in fact an event organized by a private group.
Within the last two months the Prime Minister has also agreed to subsidize the cost of gasoline for mini-bus drivers. I think that’s a good idea. After all, the alternative would have been disgruntled and/or frustrated commuters and such dissatisfaction would likely have a negative effect on our productivity. I note, however, that the arrangement will be reviewed within the next five months. I
nterestingly, the rent subsidy for the Iyanola Council for the Advancement of Rastafari will be up for review after six months. Is there something significant that will happen within the next six months which will require government to garner as much political support as possible?