And so the nation must sacrifice. As I listened to the prime minister and the minister of finance 'sympathizing' with the Jamaican people, I could not help but wonder why we the people should bear all the burdens of their political mismanagement. Now I do not know whether or not we have been given a raw deal or not, but I remember back in 2012 that the PNP's Omar Davies, who is claimed to be the more qualified PNP economic mind, stated that a JDX2 would be suicide. While campaigning, this same PNP said that they could negotiate a better IMF deal, and here we are with a second JDX, a falling dollar, and widespread hopelessness.
While listening I ran into a tweet from Marc Ramsay, who I remember as a law student called for a revolution of the mind in Jamaica: "@yasmarcram: I am waiting to hear that the Cabinet size will be reduced and they will accept salary cuts and fire excess consultants! You too must sacrifice". So I too waited, and waited, and 14 minutes later it was clear that only the Jamaican people would sacrifice. What is clear to me after that press conference is that the politicians of Jamaica are selfish, arrogant, and cold-hearted in their approach to the Jamaican people.
For all her "mama" ways, the PM is not willing to sacrifice for her children. She would prefer to watch them starve, ask them to eat less food while she and her friends accept full salaries, provide more jobs for their friends, wine, dine, travel first class, and party. When Minister Phillips called for "the entire nation" to mobilise around a national objective of reducing Jamaica's debt ratio, he did not mean the excess politicians in cabinet, the excess consultants, or the beneficiaries of unnecessary government spending projects. He meant that the civil servants, nurses and teachers must remain underpaid, while politicians accept their salaries, he meant that our children must enjoy life less, while some politicians can party in London and fly to Trinidad Carnival.
So here is my charge to the government. Do not be selfish; you must sacrifice as well. We demand that you take pay cuts; you do not deserve your full pay when we the people suffer. You must reduce the size of cabinet, it is too big, you cannot hire your friends when we and our friends cannot get jobs. Cutting the cabinet and taking salary cuts is not just symbolic; it could make a real impact. The PM does not need such a large cabinet.
The government of the United States of America has 15 Cabinet members. Coca-Cola, an efficient global company, had revenues of US$35 billion dollars. Coca-Cola has a board of directors with 16 people. The government of Singapore, where prosperity is high and people have greater opportunities, has a 14 member Cabinet. Her Cabinet is made up of half of all the persons elected into Parliament for the PNP, all women minus one, and two of Simpson-Miller's cousins (Natalie Neita-Headley and Noel Arscott).
From the beginning the PM has flip-flopped on the issue of the Cabinet. In 2009 she said to then Prime Minister Bruce Golding: "Don't come to us and ask for cooperation. You cannot ask the country for cooperation, Mr Prime Minister, when you continue to retain your mega-sized Cabinet. I'm calling on the prime minster to do the honourable thing: Cut the size of the Cabinet now!" Then in her inaugural speech, Simpson-Miller pledged tight fiscal policy, she said money would not be wasted, and work would be done.
Golding had a 19 member Cabinet that cost $69 million dollars. Andrew Holness had a 17 member Cabinet. Simpson-Miller's 20 member cabinet costs the Jamaican people an estimated $181 million dollars. $181 million dollars is only their salaries, and some estimates of benefits for ministers add up to more than $700 million dollars in benefits (cars, travel, housing, gas, etc).
But what could that extra money do for Jamaica? The money spent on the over sized Cabinet could buy:
• Two homeless shelters to care for almost 300 homeless persons (At $65 million, based on sum donated by Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) for construction of a shelter on King Street, Downtown, Kingston)
• Seven tins of Lasco Corned Beef from Empire Supermarket in Cross Roads for every single resident of the parish of Kingston and a tin of mackrel for every single Jamaican
• The extra money spent on the Cabinet could buy 295,125 packets of Nestle Lactogen Infant formula for our babies, or care for 430 homeless children in the places of safety and children's homes for a year
• The extra money spent on Cabinet is almost four times what Shaggy and Friends donated in January 2010 to the Bustamente Children's Hospital to help improve the medical care given to our children.
• The extra money spent on Cabinet could buy 28 two-bedroom homes based on NHT figures
• The extra money spent on Cabinet could top the recent donation by the World Free Wheel Chair Mission to Jamaica by buying 9,194 wheelchairs for the disabled in Jamaica
• The extra money spent on Cabinet is the annual salary for 296 Jamaicans living on minimum wage.
We demand that the politicians drink some of the poison they are giving to the people.
According to the Gleaner's Daraine Luton, "Ninety-eight consultants have been engaged by the Portia Simpson Miller-led government at a cost of more than $255 million since the administration took power in January." Every Jamaican should take a calculator, take their salary slips or utility and mortgage bills, or their grocery list and calculate the real cost of those consultants in real terms. How much groceries could that buy? How many school fees could that pay? That is the cost of politicians’ reckless spending to you.
Madam PM, you put us in this position and we will not allow you to take advantage of us again. We love our country, so we will sacrifice. But if you love Jamaica, you must drink the same bitter poison you are feeding us. Cut the cabinet, fire excess consultants, cut your salaries by at least 20% and show us that you actually care.
Francis J. Mafar