I understand the public concern over telephone expenses incurred during the twelve (12) month period July 2013 to June 2014. During the period, I went on 15 overseas assignments on behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica. I visited several countries, including the United Kingdom, Turkey and Indonesia. The call and data charges were incurred as I executed my duties as Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
Whilst on overseas assignment, it is necessary to be in contact with, and be accessible to the Ministry, key stakeholders and the Diaspora by phone and email. The concern of Jamaicans is fully understood and accepted, and without more information, I know the impression that such expenditure may convey.
I acknowledge that the bills are very high, largely attributed to data and roaming charges. However, it is important for everyone to know that these bills were incurred genuinely as I carried out my work and because of the high cost of roaming for voice and data services. In going forward, I intend to put in place measures to ensure a reduction in the cost of these bills.
Currently, I am on official business overseas and I am more than willing to address this issue and to give a more fulsome response upon return.
Hon. Arnaldo Brown, MP.
I have been watching like most people the comedy of errors being played out by the characters of politics, the latest is the ‘Phone-Gate’, investigated by a journalist that has caused a lot of emotional outburst by a mass of people and from the accused nothing less than insanity.
Let me commend the journalist for breaking this story. It is rare that you find investigative journalism exercised by a Jamaican journalist as in this country it can be costly to not only investigate but to expose corruption. People take it personally here. It may be how this country was brought up, not to expose your business in public. Our parents, if not anything else, certainly nailed that in our thick skulls growing up. For a journalist to expose these hidden secrets of a ruling government it is earth shaking for the masses but for those that are mildly curious it opens up a can of worms- how many other misappropriation and mismanagement of public funds exists and are NOT investigated or at worst not made public?
As a country we have never been honest in expressing or communicating our true feelings. We are a classic country that says one thing but does another. A classic example how many of the promises outlined by politicians have come to past for the benefit of those who were promised? If we move away from politics you can count on your hands how many times your employer, your family or even your friend actually do something they promise to do.
Our culture is not an honest culture of self expression so people tend to take everything with a grain of salt. From our politician to our common folk, the majority of Jamaicans are scared of the power of democracy which was created as an ideal where everyone, from the rich to the poor, have a say and can express themselves honestly and openly without repercussions. Our political culture is even worse. If you want to test democracy in Jamaica in our political culture , just have a 5 minute conversation with a PNP or a JLP supporter.
Phone-gate is split right down the political divide in Jamaica and with such a divisive electorate there is no way this scandal can be truly expunged from our present economic debacle. Jamaicans have been led, indoctrinated and persuaded to take each of our differences with a grain of salt, despising those who think differently or ensuring that those who differ are marginalized , casted out , killed or maimed. It is our volcanic differences that lie at the crux of our maturity as a nation, a maturity that allows us to see when our politicians are pulling the cloak of ignorance over our intelligence. When we allow a politician to think that he is more intelligent than the people that elect him, we have just created a monster and junior Minister Arnaldo Brown is the head of this Hydra.
Let us be honest, if you are given $1000 and told to use as you desire, you would. A few days later you are given another $1000 and told the same thing. In time you develop a habit of spending unconsciously as your gratification of wealth can only be measured by what you spend this wealth on. Minister Brown et al is no different. Their gratification of wealth can be measured in their use of the limitless source of funds to gratify their insatiable desire to TALK, and TALK claiming to do Jamaica’s business. In this case the gratification of wealth is not found in mere possession of an unmonitored public cell phone or in the lavish expenditure accorded these Ministers much less a “Junior” minister, but rather in its wise application of using cell phones from around the world knowing that roaming charges are like death, it spares no one, the rich or the poor.
The only difference between a private business and a government run entity is that the private business focuses on making a profit operating on the least expenditure. Any private business that takes its expenditure seriously understands that any expenditure must generate a residuary profit for the company. Talk is cheap, It is also expensive and an expenditure of words without income of residuary profits in terms of ideas or positive economic impact to move our country forward in the short and long term, is nothing but intellectual and actual bankruptcy, a situation this country is already facing. Where is the business Mr. Minister? Where does your talking on our behalf is making the lives of the least amongst us a bit bearable?
The extravagant expenditure of public money is an evil not to be measured by the value of that money to the people who are taxed for it, but rather to the sheer insensitivity of those in charge spending it with no regard for our present economic plight. Business must not only be done, it must be measured. The first responsibility of the leader of government is to define what is government business, the last is to say thank you for conducting the business. In between the definition and the thank you the leader and her ministers are a servant, servant of the people that they represent. The business they conduct is like all business, it must make money, it must move the country forward. Running government, like a business, is an art and good business is the best art. One million dollars of talk ought to deliver one million dollars of economic activity that is not only positive but real. The Junior Minister cannot and will not be asked to account for this real activity, the government has never been accountable for its expenditures so why start now?
If we had built a culture where honest expectations are communicated and accountability is the norm, then the people of Jamaica would address effectively and outrightly this poor performance and attitudes of the Junior minister et al and the leader would have no choice but to immediately correct this gross error of judgement and report to her shareholders the new SOP going forward. Instead we are fed with nothing but self approval and attempts to justifying the expenditure of 5 million dollars of tax payers money with no real profit to show.
Insanity in individuals is something rear but in groups, parties, nations and epochs It is the rule. Congratulations to everyone in showing the world and by extension the diaspora how insane we are in dealing with our economic plight. Jamaica has a government that is completely out of touch with reality and its people, through its political divide, conditioned, Indoctrinated, Manipulated to be the servants of a system we did not ask to be imposed on us, but is set up to divide and conquer. Jamaicans are not living in a democracy. We are living in a PNP/JLP autocracy where very little if anything gets done , no one is accountable and the people either live in excessive wealth, ‘stush’ poverty or frenzied liberty where the rule of the law does not exist.
Wake up Jamaica. We are sleeping. We can do better than this. We are a democratic country where we elect to govern the country, not a group of people. We must never forget the government is not an alien or in our case the PNP or JLP. The ultimate rulers of our country is not the PM, or the ministers of government but the voters of this country. Those that work for us are answerable to us. The voters cannot think like the government. We have to think differently, ahead of their game. If everybody were to think alike, then somebody is not thinking.
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