We have to go through a major reordering of processes and systems. We have to speak to the soul and conscience of our people over and over. We have to recognize that we are all in the same space together. We all are holding up the shores of this land. When one, two, three or four fail, then all will topple.
That is what will be the consequence of inaction, intolerance, indiscipline, “don’t carishness”, of hard hearts, sacrificing the poor, the vulnerable and the disenfranchised.
–– Minister of Education Ronald Jones
It is not often that we actually get to agree with anything that Minister of Education Ronald Jones has to say. So, on the odd occasion that it happens, we think it important that this unusual phenomenon be entered the public record.
However, at the outset, it is critical to state that our point of agreement has nothing to do with education policy, or even the minister’s public declaration this past weekend that he is not at all in favour of corporal punishment, which for him is akin to the brutality of slavery.
Of course, this begs the question, Mr Jones, why principals are yet allowed to subject students to this “brutality” under your watch?
But that for us is another discussion for another day.
What we want to focus on now is the ongoing late payments by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). And much like Minister Jones we are left to ask: “Why must this be the case?”
Indeed, the minister is right that “no technological system should stop mothers from getting what is rightfully theirs, so they can feed their children”.
As he puts it, “anybody worth their salt does not change the system one time like that. They run parallel systems to ensure that the new system is really performing in the way they want it to perform to satisfy the needs of the business or the institution . . . . When the institution’s needs are satisfied they then retire the original system”.
It doesn’t take an IT guru to know that what Mr Jones is saying is correct. So the natural question is: why would Mr Ian Carrington and his team act so irresponsibly?
We believe there is more in the mortar than the pestle.
But, as usual, this current administration, from which Mr Jones can hardly divorce himself, is facing a crisis of communication and, unfortunately, it doesn’t only manifest itself in the late payment of NIS cheques, but it would seem in mostly everything else everywhere –– from the Customs Department at the airport to Moontown in St Lucy.
It is no wonder that it took a public statement by hoteliers, who are yet to benefit from a single concession since last October, to draw the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism out of the woodwork to suggest the hoteliers needed not air the Government’s dirty tourism linen in public without first seeking to raise the matter directly with officials.
But it needs to be said to Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, and indeed the substantive Minister of Tourism et al., that it would not hurt the bread and butter industry one bit for them to actually deliver on what they plan, be it the so-called tourism master plan, a new contract with Rihanna, or the very same concessions to local hoteliers, as reportedly delivered on time to Sandals.
And while Jamaican hotel magnate Gordon “Butch” Stewart may be smiling all the way to the bank, this increasingly is the perception of a Government as a giant procrastinator, whose persona seems to have taken up permanent residence in the Office Of The Prime Minister.
Ironically, as we joined in celebrating Commonwealth Day today, was anyone able to say if Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had yet given consideration to a regional candidate for the top job in the 53-nation grouping?
Or would that be as much wishful thinking as a decision by the incoming chairman of CARICOM to honour the 2009 decision of heads to allow for the free movement of domestics in this region?
We are sure that even though Ivor Carryl and Steven McAndrew are no longer with the CSME unit in Barbados, both would feel that their tenure wasn’t for naught.
But while it may be excusable for the Prime Minister and his team to drag their feet on CARICOM issues, it will be to their ultimate peril if they continue to do so at home.
As Mr Jones rightly says in relation to the outstanding NIS benefits, some of which we are told date as far back as October, “it is not a matter of dollars and cents, it is a matter of conscience”.
“You cannot play around with the benefits for the mothers of babies and children, and those who are on invalidity and sickness benefits,” the minister says.
The same also needs to be applied to other vulnerable sectors that have been awaiting promised support, in one form or another, from the Government.