Don’t be surprised by the obvious: roaming and data charges and mistakes

My young daughter is probably tired of my telling her to not be surprised by the obvious: it’s what you can avoid and for which you can be prepared. So, why is it such a widespread affliction that Jamaicans suffer? Cases submitted as evidence.

The junior foreign minister is using high roaming and data charges as reasons why his cell phone bills are high. “Hello, Arnaldo?” This is a known known, in Rumfeld-speak, and you should avoid it tripping you up like the plague. So, I humbly submit, the ‘explanation’ given is nothing of the sort: ‘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.’ The reason is that he ignored that these charges would be incurred and had the comfort of not having to face them, personally. Self-justification of excess is not a good reason for excess. Perhaps, a little meeting with someone at LIME or Digicel is in order so that the minister can understand how these obvious charges can be avoided. Better still, let’s check off all the numbers and get a payment plan in place to reimburse the State. Seems harsh? It’s the people’s money, buddy.

Now that the fan is spreading detritus all over the place, other ministers are looking to get rid of their government-issued cell phones like shares in Tesco.

But, I get a better understanding of why the young man may think this is alright. Read what one of his seniors uttered, yesterday, on the matter of Ebola preparedness. Senator Sandrea Falconer, Information Minster, said mistakes will be made with Ebola cases, if they come to Jamaica. She went on to ask the media to “avoid sensationalism”. Well, that’s a mighty sensational remarks. You can avoid panic in many ways; this does not seem to be one of them.

As many are pointing out, US president, Obama, said exactly the opposite: “we cannot afford mistakes when American lives are at stake”.

Is it a question of the true accountability–or lack of it–of the Jamaican political system? I can’t say.

Perhaps, the tendency to be the loose goose and sloppy in politics comes from some deeper process. Taking care to give the right reasons and arguments is something learnt from long exposure to critical assessment. I guess if life has shown that bluster and a few nicely crafted words that have little substance gets by, then why change?

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)