Mon | Dec 17, 2018

Government excessive borrowing

Published:Tuesday | November 20, 2018 | 12:07 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I must say that I share your cartoonist's bemusement in the Sunday Gleaner (November 18), where he noted the sheer irony of the prime minister's words on stopping excessive borrowing, while signing a loan of US$100 million for the health ministry. This strikes me on many levels, but the one that stands out the most is that the health ministry is probably the least likely government ministry that can afford to repay a multibillion-Jamaican-dollar loan.

Added to the fact, I read two days earlier that the same ministry is to benefit from a US$5 million loan to perform energy management operations. This is highly peculiar as the Government, through the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), is already performing energ-efficiency operations in the health sector as evidenced by numerous media reports that cite the success of the Government's energy-efficiency programmes in the public sector.

So can the prime minister-energy minister explain why we are being asked to pay back expensive US-dollar loans for these types of projects when the Government is already successfully implementing its own energy programmes in the public sector?

This adds to my recent observation that there is no permanent group managing director appointed at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, who is carrying out these projects. Is there a duplication of tasks?

The Government is correct in saying that it should not borrow money 'willy niliy', but it also must ensure that a full and proper assessment is performed before taking out these loans in the health sector. These should be projects that have their clear and measurable returns on investments and should definitely not involve duplication with other government projects. Grants for this sector are much more viable than loans.

Henry Durban