Call a spade a spade


If the decision by the board of the Airports Authority of Jamaica to invest US$3 million, or J$443 million, to acquire First Rock shares was a violation of the Public Bodies and Accountability Act, then it stands as a perfect example of why the political class gets richer and richer and the majority of Jamaicans remain poor.

In Jamaica, the accumulation of wealth is not simply a question of hard work, fair play and intelligence, but it is also what Jamaicans call ‘using your contacts’ and aligning oneself to the keeper of the ‘pork barrel keys’. How do I see this situation as a pastor and a former member of state boards?

Well, prior to the victory of any political party at the general election, individuals invest resources of time, talent, and treasure in a party. At the time of an election, they may not necessarily position themselves in the limelight, but lend support behind the scenes. Essentially, it is the members of the poorer class who are the most visible at political rallies, in motorcades, pinning posters on light poles, advertising party-coloured T-shirts, rounding up voters on election day, among other things. At victory time, the behind- the-scenes loyalists are then rewarded with key positions on government boards. These appointments offer opportunities to access inside information that would benefit companies which they either have shares in or own.

Voila! They now have the ultimate reward – contacts and positioning. For some, there is no, or little, concern to flout the laws and regulations, because they have inside protection. The end result is that the members of the poorer class, who are in the trenches during the election campaigns, are rewarded with the scrapings from the ‘pot bottom’ and the political class gets the ‘cream’ on the top.

The breaking of the laws and regulations governing state boards, and the ethical practice of recusing oneself in matters perceived to be a conflict of interest, will gradually be diminished when political leaders unapologetically call a spade a spade, and not try to convince us that a spade is a fork. With my limited knowledge of Jamaica’s political history, I am unable to identify any example of such moral behaviour in our recent history. However, if anyone knows of any example, I challenge you to respond and name them.

Published in the Jamaica Gleaner

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