Tue | Aug 16, 2022

Mark Wignall | Sister Kamina and the price of chicken back

Published:Sunday | May 29, 2022 | 12:17 AM

Sister Kamina we love you but we are not so sure that using the collective energy of our voices can help you to get from where you are to the other options in your grand aspirations.
Sister Kamina we love you but we are not so sure that using the collective energy of our voices can help you to get from where you are to the other options in your grand aspirations.

Before the affable, highly respected Jamaican minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, overseeing foreign affairs and foreign trade, decided to toss her hat into the ring for heading the Commonwealth Secretariat, few Jamaicans knew or cared about the...

Before the affable, highly respected Jamaican minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, overseeing foreign affairs and foreign trade, decided to toss her hat into the ring for heading the Commonwealth Secretariat, few Jamaicans knew or cared about the Commonwealth or its secretariat.

And now that we have heard about Baroness Scotland and the various choices for the post, I am certain that the ‘yawn’ factor is still operative. Why the retention of Baroness Scotland? Why should we here on the rock support our own sister Kamina?

Sister Kamina, we love you, but we are not so sure that using the collective energy of our voices can help you to get from where you are to the other options in your grand aspirations. Sister Kamina, the price of locally produced chicken back is about $320 per pound. Let me explain.

If I am wrong in my assessments of current matters and the extent to which they are being assessed as important to Jamaicans, the price of basic food and grocery items is THE important matter to Jamaicans in the first six months of 2022.

I could be wrong. I tend to move around those at street level and not so much those occupying poolside and lobbies in fancy New Kingston hotels. So it is quite likely that I am missing out on the great concerns of those heavily invested in the stock market and the price of a one-year-old top-of-the line Mercedes.

I am not that one-sided not to subscribe to the pragmatic needs of whistling while we ride. Sister Kamina knows that her aspirations are not based on her personal trek to a greater place in her career. She knows that strengthening her résumé on our time cannot be okay, so we are forced to adopt the civility needed to support her.

But we must ask: What is in it for us? And Sister Kamina, even if we can indeed whistle as we ride, why do we sense that your aspirations and those of the Jamaica Labour Party administration are not being clinically examined as part and parcel of ‘ ye olde’ attachments to a colonial past and the political schizophrenia we utilise over breaking from the monarchy?

UK IS THE PUPPETEER

A friend living in a part of the UK emailed me this:

“It seems the UK is not pleased with Baroness Scotland, so a push is on to remove her. The UK may or may not have good cause. But the UK is one of the main agitators to remove Scotland. The UK is Jamaica’s former colonial ‘controller’. The UK has a bad history with Jamaica from the vicious crime of slavery to the way it controlled Jamaica, looting its resources and using Jamaica as it pleased. Jamaica just had the ridiculous ‘Royal’ visit. The Royals behaved as if they were visiting their subjects. That is not so. Those days are long gone. At least I think so and so do many other Jamaicans. So it is not a good look that Jamaica is doing the UK’s bidding. Johnson Smith may be a good candidate, but the fact the UK is a major influence in her decision to run is not good.”

NHT AND SOCIALISM

The National Housing Trust (NHT) was forged in the fires of 1976 People’s National Party democratic socialism. One wonders about the factors that must have occupied the thought processes of the chief technocrat involved, Dr Fitz Ford - essentially, the man who put it all together.

Was it really designed to deliver houses to many of those who were and would have been locked out of the private sector-built housing stock? But much has changed from 1976 to now.

First, the NHT was never designed to give every poor Jamaican a house. That was the political message that resonated through the PNP in its heyday before Michael rid himself of his statist control of government and his Kariba suit-jacket. And of course, he was forced to adopt governance in the market economy of 1989.

Prime Minister Holness was recently taken to task for saying out loud that the NHT is not a charity, not a welfare institution. Well, the PM knows more than many that wage earners at the higher end of the scale do not want the sort of houses that NHT money can buy.

Mr Holness also knows the bigger reality that many of those wage earners operating at the higher end in the so-called lower middle class are basically those who will qualify most for housing solutions via the NHT. So those at the lower end will be shafted because their wages are not enough to service even the low-interest loans.

The NHT becomes a ‘charity’ and a ‘welfare’ institution when successive governments fail to manage the economy properly and are forced to raid the NHT’s huge stock of funds, conveniently taken as government’s personal charity institution.

In fact, the NHT is less a financial institution than it is a hangover of socialism in action. In other words, all wage earners at all levels are mandated to contribute while many of those at the top scale accept the fact that their regular contributions will help others because they can afford it.

Examined that way, they accept that the regular contributions will not break them financially while the monies go to assist those who most need it. So the theory goes.

The days of private sector mass development of lower middle class housing (Harbour View, Pembroke Hall, and the socially resilient Mona Heights) are over. The vast majority of private sector development of houses in 2022 is slanted towards the high end.

Meanwhile, the small householder is locked out no matter the upgrading of the housing plans. He has to be satisfied that there is no ‘charity’ and ‘welfare’ building institutions to assist him.

The present explosions in the private sector building boom favour those whose pockets can bear the weight of housing starting at around $40 million.

To the majority of Jamaicans, not even their dreams can conjure up acquiring houses at that price.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.