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Omar Davies’ Lousy Legacy

Wesley Morris | Omar Davies’ Lousy Legacy

Published:Sunday | June 11, 2017 | 6:00 AM

Omar Davies, former Minister of Finance
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As Dr Omar Davies, member of parliament for South St Andrew, is about to announce his resignation, it is fitting to look at the man who has had such a long and successful career in politics. What Dr Omar Davies learned from his hard-working mother, who was crucial to the success and prominence of him and his brothers, was ambition, determination, and not caring about anyone else. These traits have led to him becoming extremely successful over a 24-year period as an MP, serving as minister of finance and planning, and minister of transport and works.

Dr Davies’ insistence that he did the right thing in correctly analysing the issues surrounding the breakdown in the Jamaican economy in the 1990s, despite the damage it has had on the lives of many Jamaicans, illustrates the fact that he is ambitious, determined, and was inconsiderate towards those whose businesses were destroyed. Instead of doing what was needed to solve the problems of the Jamaican economy, he simply blamed others.

In an article titled ‘Davies dug the graveyard of entrepreneurship; FINSAC failed’, Dr Paul Chen Young, former executive chairman of Eagle Merchant Bank, characterised Dr Davies as “architect of the failed financial and economic policies during the period that led to the collapse of the domestic financial sector, closures of numerous businesses, massive layoffs – 90,000 in agriculture and manufacturing – high inflation averaging 34 per cent from 1991 to 1997, high lending rates averaging 40 per cent over the same period, devaluation of 64 per cent over the six-year period, massive trade deficits, destruction of entrepreneurship, and a fiscal deficit of eight per cent of gross domestic product in 1997 BEFORE the financial crisis after erasing a surplus in the early 1990s … .” (Sunday Gleaner, May 22, 2011)

It is important to note that high inflation of 34 per cent means that the majority of the population suffers and poor parents in Dr Davies’ constituency of South St Andrew were unable to feed their children or buy them medicine. For Dr Davies to use this instrument of high interest rate in his attempt to solve the country’s financial ills shows quite clearly that he had no consideration for the majority of the people of Jamaica.

Whatever Dr Davies had on his mind, it had nothing to do with the wholesale health of the Jamaican economy or the welfare of the people whose lives his policies had damaged or destroyed.

 

GUILTY OF CHARGE

 

Claude Clarke, businessman and former minister of trade, suggested that “the PNP plead guilty for the damage inflicted on the economy in the 1990s; and reintroduce itself to the country with a new message under its new leader”, and in 2011 wrote an article with the title, ‘The tragic folly of FINSAC’, which began as follows:

“The name FINSAC (Financial Sector Adjustment Company) has evolved into a uniquely ubiquitous metaphor for the economic malady that crippled the Jamaican economy through the 1990s and continues to this day to scar the economic lives of many in our society. This two-decade-long economic nightmare blighted the economy and plunged the country into a vortex of economic decline with thousands of businesses closing their doors. It locked Jamaica out of the great global economic surge that took place during the 1990s and 2000s … .” (Sunday Gleaner, May 22, 2011).

These arguments will be lost on Dr Davies.

Omar Davies is adamant that poor management within Jamaican financial institutions caused the crisis. This is in direct opposition to the serious and scholarly views expressed by the business people who bore the brunt of the crisis and had good reasons to deal with objective reality. What is missing from these analyses, however, is a look at Dr Davies’ lack of compassion.

Several people cited Dr Davies as arrogant. This may actually have helped the PNP lose the general election in 2007. WikiLeaks-intercepted United States diplomatic cables (The Sunday Gleaner, May 29, 2011) revealed that a certain minister threatened to resign if Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller used the National Insurance Fund for job creation, which was likely to have eased the economic burden on poor people and encouraged them to vote for the PNP in the general election.

That minister, it seems, was concerned that his excellent record in the eyes of IMF and international institutions would be blemished. Portia Simpson Miller backed down because she was concerned about the division the resignation would cause.

 

LACK OF CRITICAL THINKING

 

At a thanksgiving service for his mother (the general), who died at the age of 95, Omar Davies tells us that through her focus on education, she assisted him and his brothers to achieve excellence in education and prominence in public life. Totally missing from this story was how she earned her “limited income” and helped her children excel.

Perhaps because of this powerful example of his mother and his lack of critical thinking about it, Dr Davies expects poor people within his inner-city community to perform similar feats, even though they have negligible sources of income and find it difficult to meet even their basic human needs, such as feeding their families.

As MP for South St Andrew, Dr Omar Davies’ major (probably sole) initiative for the constituency has been in education. He is very proud of this. He claims that education is the only thing that will draw people out of poverty, although the Jamaican education system benefits a small minority and does not cater for the general population.

The dynamic economies of today (for example, South East Asia) focus on mightily raising the standard of the average and not just the top percentage, in that way helping the people as a whole. Here, again, he is particularly fond of blaming the victims of government policy for their suffering. You, residents of South St Andrew (and other inner-city communities), Dr Omar Davies is suggesting that your poverty has nothing to do with government policy. He apparently doesn’t care about all those people struggling to make a living or finding a means to survive. Those who see Dr Omar Davies for the person he really is will respond to his departure by saying farewell and good riddance!

– Dr Wesley Morris is a former aspirant for the chairmanship of the St Andrew South constituency. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and sinderesis@cwjamaica.com.

My Audience

My audience are those people who are ready for Jamaica to play in a completely different league and are ready for a change.  They know that their lives and the lives of their fellow citizens can improve in many different ways and are desperate for those changes.  They are inspired by Jamaica Vision 2030 i.e. “Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business” and are eager to do take action to make it possible.

They know that real and meaningful political change is needed if we to achieve this vision or to make significant progress to achieving it by 2030.

They think that the majority of politicians are in politics for personal reasons rather than for the public good and, as time goes by, they see dwindling opportunities and life chances for them and their children.  The politicians are not doing what’s necessary to improve the life chances of all the people and only seem to consider them when it is time to seek reelection. They are not acting for the benefit of the nation.

An example of this is the fact that in the constituency of South St Andrew there is the periodic and persistent overflow of raw sewage into the community.  Within the past month there has been more than four incidents.  That’s in spite of the outgoing Member of Parliament Dr. Omar Davies has been a member of several cabinets and has held several important ministries.  He has hand-picked his successor, Mark Golding, who has been in the constituency for nearly 9 years, 5 of which he was Vice Chairman of the constituency and one as Chairman.  These people are ineffective when it comes to improving the basic sanitation of members of the community, which indicates that there is need for a change.

The video below illustrates the problem of neglect of our communities and nation.  Let’s be clear that an outbreak of cholera in Jones Town or Trench could affect all of Jamaica.

How can a politician profess that he cares for the people in his constituency when people are left to live with the environmental hazard of a sewage-filled homes?  In at least 2 situations where there was sewage backing up into homes there were mothers nursing young babies.  These are the kind of people standing in the way of progress for our community and nation.  It is time for a change.

Raw sewage flows on Benbow Street

“Jesus have mercy.

I hope someone would come help.

Please God.”

Because she knew she couldn’t rely on the people who regularly took her votes to help to stop the sewage flowing on Benbow street, Simone offered up this little prayer at the end of her video of sewage flowing on Benbow Street hoping for divine intervention.

The stench assaulted our nostrils.  The fear of cholera was there, as was the danger to the new born in one of the residents but this situation had been going on since December and it was now March.

The local Seventh Day Adventist church had made representation, as people who worked from the National Water Commission that lived in the area.  To no avail.  This has been the pattern for years but instead of fixing the unblocking the sewers that led to be overflow and engaging in regular maintenance, the political representatives and the NWC blamed the residents for the bottles and other waste material blocking the sewers.

It is obvious that they don’t care although they would point to all the conversations they have had about the problem and say that indicated that they care when sewage continue to flow onto the streets and the residents (and Jamaica) have to live with the danger of an outbreak of cholera.

This is just one indication that that it is time for a change.  We need more caring people in positions of leadership in our political parties as well as in organizations like the NWC.

I circulated the video Simone took to my friends and told them that I intended to write a letter to the Gleaner to publicize the treat of cholera to Jamaica.

One person with connection to Senator Mark Golding said such an article would be damaging to the political directorate and promised to bring it to his attention.  When Golding heard about my proposed letter to the Gleaner he was greatly concerned that the ensuing row could affect his chances for confirmation as a Caretaker Candidate and so managed to get off his butt and do something for the constituency. Is this what we want? Once he is confirmed will we not go back to 20 years of the same as before?  It is time for a change.

An epidemic coming to a town near you

If an epidemic broke out it in a poor area of Kingston it would quickly affect the better off areas as the poor people go to work in those areas and work as cleaners and domestics. An outbreak would quickly affect the tourist industry as news would spread and it would have an appalling effect on the country. But that is the danger we are now facing.

There is real danger that the untreated sewage flowing onto Benbow Street in Jones Town could lead to an outbreak in cholera that would lead to deaths of Jamaicans.  Make no mistake an outbreak of such a disease would not be confined to Jones Town but, since people travel and interact, could cause the death of tourist visitors.  A travel advisory from the US state department would hit one of our major foreign exchange earners – the Tourist industry.  If you think this is alarmist, please note that the World Health Organization (WHO) says cholera can kill within hours and also reports that every year there are about 1.3 to 4 million cases and 21,000 to 143,000 death resulting from the disease.

The effluent is coming from a number of residences on Benbow Street, Jones Town, in the vicinity of a popular Seventh Day Adventist Church which draws heavy people traffic, and flowing into the gutters and down into the gully all the way to Kingston harbor.   Many homes are being affected directly.   Yesterday, Saturday March 4th, there was a woman filming the flow with her smart phone with the intention of sending the clip to Television Jamaica, hoping that action will be taken.  The people of Jones Town are very concerned that there could be an outbreak of serious disease.

This is clearly a major public health hazard, not just for the people of Jones Town, but for everyone in Jamaica.

The concerned residents report that there is a nursing mother in one of the homes from which the sewage is flowing.

To give a simple example: the resident of 22 Benbow Street wakes up each morning with raw sewage in her compound and has to step over it in order to get to the street.  There is a powerful and steady stream of sewage coming from somewhere under the entrance to her home. The flow is accompanied by a stench which especially affects her little boy.

The residents are understandably upset and frustrated by the neglect that has led to them being forced to live with this deplorable situation.   A WHO report states that “Cholera transmission is closely linked to inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Typical at-risk areas include peri-urban slums, where basic infrastructure is not available.”  It is the neglect of areas like Jones Town that could lead to the major outbreak of diseases like cholera that could affect us all.

It is important that the Ministry of Health, the National Water Commission (NWC) and any other political representatives get together to keep us all safe.  The people of Jones Town and we the people of Jamaica deserve better.

This is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

YouTube video of the sewage: