This month contributing writer, Delano Seiveright, discusses lawlessness, mismanagement and corruption on the part of the Ministry of Finance headed by the “Honorable” Minister Dr. Omar Davies.
Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Minister Of Cataclysm

The continued news of lawlessness, mismanagement and corruption on the part of the Ministry of Finance headed by the “Honourable” Minister Dr.Omar Davies is quite alarming. Dr. Davies’ calamitous sojourn as Minister of Finance, since 1993, needs to, for the sake of our beloved Jamaica, come to an end. In light of the fact that Dr. Davies tenure so far as Finance Minister has been a colossal failure and has gravely jeopardized the future of current generations and future generations of Jamaicans, he has the impudence to harbour intentions of becoming the next Prime Minister of Jamaica. This highlights the extreme level of arrogance that has engulfed the mind of the Finance Minister.

FLOUTING THE LAW
The Ministry of Finance recently admitted to a special sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament that it has been in violation of the Financial Administration and Audit Act (FAA) for the past 13 years. The Ministry admitted to illegally issuing approximately $20 billion of guarantees some call it ”comfort letters”. This is by all means abominable. Not only should Dr. Davies resign but also the outgoing Financial Secretary Shirley Tyndall, the Deputy Financial Secretary Robert Martin, State Minister Deika Morrison and State Minister Fitz Jackson. This will certainly go down as yet another massive scandal to rock the Patterson administration.

THE AUDITOR GENERAL REPORT
The Auditor General Report for the financial year ended 31 March 2004 highlighted thought provoking discrepancies on the part of the Ministry of Finance. Apparently $15.82 billion and US$176.9 million representing proceeds from financial instruments issued by the Government mysteriously forgot to find its way into the Consolidated Fund. This situation is a definite breach of the constitution. This is certainly another reason for Dr.Davies to resign or be fired.

AIR JAMAICA
Dr. Vin Lawrence, the executive chairman of Air Jamaica, recently stated that the airline’s losses are approximately US$900 million (soon to surpass a billion US$ according to well placed sources). The airlines’ total debt has also soared above US$900million. Certainly, Dr.Omar Davies in the capacity of Minister of Finance must have been fully cognizant of the deleterious state of our national carrier for over a decade. Incidentally, his chief advisor George Senior sat on the Air Jamaica board alongside the government official with many hats (according to some sources over 20) Dr. Vin Lawrence and the Governor of the B.O.J Derrick Latibeaudiere. It is important to note that detailed monthly reports were submitted to the Minister over the last ten+ years. Dr. Davies could then in no way claim ignorance. Famed Gleaner columnist Dawn Ritch noted in a column that to put these losses (Air Jamaica) into perspective, the Finance Minister’s intervention in the financial sector (FINSAC) cost US$1.25billion. This level of chakka chakkaism on the part of the Finance Minister is horrendous and needs to be put to an end now.

TAXES, TAXES AND MORE TAXES
Dr. Omar Davies recently presented in Parliament his 2005/2006 partial budget [Partial in the sense that it unscrupulously excludes billions of dollars of off-budget expenditure] . This budget is yet another disastrous episode in Dr.Davies costly and destructive sojourn as Minister of Finance. Dr.Davies knocked lower and middle class Jamaicans by increasing General Consumption Tax [GCT] from an already too high 15% to 16.5%. Though this may be viewed as minimal to some it will have a deleterious effect on the most vulnerable Jamaicans who incidentally make up the majority. Dr. Davies is yet to find ingenious ways of dragging more and more businesses and individuals into the tax net. He is instead busy taxing an already overtaxed segment of the population.

CUTS ALL AROUND
Dr.Davies also made no real or significant provisions to most Ministries. Almost all Ministries factoring in inflation received a budget cut. The most affected were the Health and Local Government Ministries. The decrepit and crises ridden fire service, which falls under the Local Government Ministry, was almost forgotten by the Minister. Indications point to the possibility of Dr. Davies playing politics with the people and property of Jamaica. Is it not a coincidence to see that the Drumblair crew i.e. Maxine, Peter, Aloun etc. in the P.N.P. got marginal increases in their requisite budgetary allocations? This only goes to highlight the zealous malevolence and gross disregard Dr. Davies has for safeguarding the best interest of Jamaicans on a whole.

WHITEHOUSE HOTEL BANGARANG
Yet another scandal to rock Dr. Davies and the Patterson administration is the massive overruns at the taxpayer funded Sandals Whitehouse Project. The original cost of the project was calculated at US$60million. According to well-placed sources the overruns are in excess of US$45million, causing the overall cost of the project to be in excess of US$105million or JA$6.3billion. This is said to be a very conservative estimate. Dr.Davies who has direct responsibility for the fiduciary affairs of the state has failed infinitely in this regard. How much more money will we permit Omar to waste before we are roused into action.

THE FAMOUS RUN WID IT SPEECH
As you would already know, the “Honourable” Finance Minister after the October 2002 election, egotistically stated in the presence of the media his improper spending of billions of taxpayers dollars immediately before the election. This he said, was done to selfishly guarantee victory for the P.N.P. His actions caused some amount of dislocation in the local economy. This was particularly evident in the multibillion-dollar tax package brought forward in the 2003/2004 budget, to at least attempt to remedy his devastating action. Dr. Davies has displayed on several occasions his gross disregard for fiduciary responsibility. As Minister of Finance he has been a nightmare. Imagine the horror of him being elected Prime Minister.

FINANCIAL MELTDOWN OF THE 1990s
The meltdown of almost the entire financial sector and by extension many businesses is viewed by many to be the fault of the Minister. It is argued that the economic policies of the government led to the collapse of the financial sector. It is said that the disaster that met the financial and business sectors of our economy cost Jamaicans scores of billions of dollars, primarily through FINSAC. The widespread dislocation caused many Jamaican owned institutions to fall. These include the more than a century and a half old Mutual Life, Century National Bank, Workers Bank, Eagle and Dyoll (which recently has collapsed again). Consequently most of the remnants of these institutions were sold to foreigners. Trinidadian businessmen now own a significant chunk of our financial sector. There is only one local owned commercial bank in Jamaica i.e. First Global Bank, which when stacked up with the other banks is insignificant. An almost similar fate had also befallen the insurance industry. Life of Jamaica, Island Life and the former Mutual Life now Guardian Life, are now primarily owned by Barbadian and Trinidadian business interests. In the last year alone in excess of US$490 million of profits for foreign owned entities operating in Jamaica was repatriated. It could be argued that Jamaica has and continues to be recolonized. Thanks Dr. Davies.

ECONOMIC MALAISE
The Jamaican economy since Dr. Davies first took office in 1993 struggled for years to grow over 1% per annum. The Jamaican economy is yet to grow above a measley 3%. This calls into question the abysmal performance of Dr. Davies. The total national debt is now in excess of $760 billion coming from $30 billion 16 years ago when this Government took office. That is a 2433.33% increase in the national debt. If that doesn”t alarm you then what will. Audley Shaw, the Opposition spokesperson of Finance, stated in the 2004/2005 Budget debate that almost $500 Billion in interest alone in the last ten years has been paid out to service the debt. This I must highlight was during the tenure of Dr.Davies. No wonder the gap between rich and poor is becoming more and more stark in Jamaica.

TIME TO STEP DOWN DR. DAVIES
These are just some of the examples of colossal mismanagement, waste, corruption and negligence that have been pursued by Dr.Omar Davies. It could easily be argued that Dr. Davies has been the most reckless, irresponsible, malevolent, bungling and unaccountable Minister of Government ever in Jamaica, land we love. The Minister’s actions have cost this country hundreds of billions of dollars. Imagine if most or all this wasted money was channeled into the education system, healthcare, the fire brigade, the police force, the justice system, housing, roads and the general infrastructure of our island. It would certainly make a monumental difference. It is high time for Dr. Omar “Clueless” Davies to resign and for the best interest of Jamaicans leave politics for eternity.

For the mercy of all Jamaicans Sir, especially for my generation, stop getting ahead of yourself and do the honourable thing and leave Jamaican politics for good. I am just 21 years old and I am extremely concerned about the trajectory my country is on. I sincerely hope that other patriotic Jamaicans will begin to apply pressure on our inept leaders and by so bring about a Jamaica where the youth can at least have hope.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
-Once a political system has been corrupted right from the very top leaders to the lowest rungs of the bureaucracy, the problem is very complicated. The cleansing has to start from the top and go downwards in a thorough and systematic way – Lee Kwan Yew [former Prime Minister of Singapore]

About the author

DelanoSeiveright