The National Housing Trust (NHT) scandal currently rocking the Jamaican government has highlighted the continued misuse of public funds that never stops. This scandal is critical for Jamaicans as most pay the NHT tax in order to potentially own their dream first home.
Jamaica has a democratic political system that at times borders on being an elected dictatorship. The real history of Jamaican governments is shrouded in such secrecy that would be the envy by their friends in Beijing or FIFA.
Much has been commented about the failings and disappointment of those with strategic responsibility for the NHT. This includes the Prime Minister, some of her senior civil servants and the NHT Board where the communications channels of sharing key information seems non-existent. Or is ignorance the best form of defence.
Transparency of government business under Access to Information Act means there is little chance of truth coming out.
Jamaicans should not have to rely on wikileaks and the freedom of information acts in other countries to know what their own government has been doing. The current Act needs to be more open about what information should be declassified.
Both the current PNP government and the main opposition of being economical with the truth only to be caught out by a third party with the facts.
The history of Jamaican politics would be better understood if Jamaica had a 20 year rule in place where all government/cabinet records are released [unconditionally] 20 years after they were signed off. This would help Jamaicans know its political past and learn from previous blunders/successes.
Why shouldn’t minutes (even if edited) of NHT Board meetings be made available to the public? Why are union leaders and a senior civil servant on the NHT Board?
The only time the electorate have any say is at national and local government elections. This limited form of electoral engagement is so outdated for a Jamaican public well tuned up on modern politics. Referenda would help.
Referenda could be used on some key national interest decisions such as on ganja laws, constitutional changes or even on public money bailing out private companies.
Referenda were used successfully in the US and in Scotland. My favorite referendum example was when the people of California voted to increase taxes rather than cut public spending.
Referenda will give Jamaicans voter a say in government policy as the current performance of those in power and the opposition is just below average.