Having just written about the poor performances of Jamaican politicians and corruption, it’s only natural that I would be interested in the very prominent goings-on over the licence for energy generation given to EWI. My initial reaction yesterday, when I read news streams that the PM had decided to revoke the licence, was ‘this is interesting’. (‘Interesting’ is a proper British way of saying “Rahtid!” in patois.)
Last week, the finance minister had been at pains to tell the people that the government was listening to their opposition to a proposed bank tax: it was withdrawn. We heard a string of voices yelling ‘foul’ over the energy minister’s amendment to the licence; the yells over his granting of an ‘extension’ to the time for paying a performance bond; the shriek from the IDB that it did not want to touch the project financing; the pained ‘no’ from the Contractor General to calls that he ‘reconsider’ his decision that the procurement process was not quite up to snuff; the banshee wailing that came with withdrawal from the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) of its civil society and private sector members. I wondered if the government was hearing what seemed to be loud and clear. The decision to revoke the licence suggests that the hearing aids were working. Mrs. Simpson-Miller could this morning begin a speech saying “I am listening, listening, listening…and I will be working, working, working…”.
Minister Paulwell has been at pains to hold onto the view that his decisions have had no impropriety. He even went to great lengths yesterday morning to explain what he had done, with a ministerial statement. Well, clearly, one of his important supporters was not having any of that explanation, because within hours of that ‘clarification’, the PM rescinded the licence. That was after EWI had again failed to perform on completing the payment of its performance bond, which was ‘in the mail’ in Honkers.
In many countries, the next step in this process would be that the energy minister, realising that credibility had gone out of the window with his leader overturning what had been done, would tender his resignation or it would be requested that he do so. Well, the Opposition had already called for that, so too had the private sector representatives on the EMC. In the poker of politics, the PM may feel that resignation may pander to the will of others rather than seeming to be the action that flows naturally from her decision. Ironically, the energy minister is due to make a statement in Parliament today. Many will be listening and watching to hear if he reveals that he has been ‘distanced’ from the energy project. (Some expect the project to be handled by the PM’s office with no role being played by the energy minister, which would beg questions about the meaning of that ministerial portfolio.) I like the way the Gleaner danced with the subject early this morning. I also like the way they painted the political picture yesterday in the cartoons.
Well, this is Jamaica. Things don’t always move as they do elsewhere: the sun sometimes sets in the east and rises in the west, here. If you wanted to take seriously the ‘massive support’ the energy minister had, as shown by the people who waved cardboard placards for him on Sunday, you’d say the people are with him….NOT.
The cynic in me wants to get a word in edgeways. “What about the political fallout?” says a voice in my ear. I’m listening, too. You mean, the election that is in the offing? “Yes, that.” Well, the dirty laundry needs to be removed ahead of that. Removing the minister would be a sacrifice in some senses, but it would also clear the decks in the minds of the people and at least give space for the idea that the government has ‘listened’ to the calls for better governance. I’m not going to say ‘better late than never’, no sirree, not me.
Well, funnier things have happened. Maybe Minister Thwaites will this week issue new instructions for schools in the teaching of elementary children: A is for accountability, B is for believability, C is for commitment…G is for governance. I like the ring of that. Hey, Ronnie! Do you have a minute?
The story is moving fast, so I don’t want to get out too far ahead of it. Today, will be the first day of the rest of our lives. I feel a new dawn breaking–and it’s just about 5am as I write. Jamaica cannot claw back decades of bad governance in a few days. But, like with every journey, it begins with a step.