Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Garth Rattray | What's good for the goose ...

Published:Monday | June 11, 2018 | 1:40 AM

Last week, chairman of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee, Dr Wykeham McNeill, caught the members at the scheduled meeting off guard when he questioned the hiring procedures at the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo). He asserted that a slew of G2K members were recruited by TPDCo. Generation 2000 (G2K) is the young professional affiliate of the Jamaica Labour Party.

Naturally, his unscheduled political pounce precipitated a veritable furore from several attendees across the political divide. They accused him of playing politics. Dr McNeill reportedly said, “Permanent Secretary, when I was at the Ministry of Tourism, you were very strict in how procedures went, generally, including hiring procedures at the ministry, and what is happening is that we are seeing things like these which, in a sense, take on a political connotation … ."

This prompted swift and robust responses from several members and Permanent Secretary Jennifer Griffiths, to which McNeill retorted, "The extent to which there is infiltration of the civil service by the political directorate brings into question the judgement of the projects that are selected." Throughout the accusations and defensive protestations, I kept thinking, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." In other words, whatever is applicable to one person or situation should similarly be applicable to another person or situation. It's an open secret that, whenever possible, both the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party 'reward' some stalwarts with certain appointments. In other circumstances, individuals are ostensibly placed in sensitive positions to direct political policies or as clandestine monitors (watchdogs).   

Generally, politics is fraught with enlightened self-interest. And, in countries, like Jamaica, with scarce resources and even scarcer opportunities for sustained upward mobility and long-term economic security, there is a preponderance of expectant reciprocity resident in many who become involved in politics by aligning themselves with one political party or the other.
Of course, there is an indeterminate number of citizens who enter politics to serve and they suffer financial demands from assisting the constituents and contributing to events, loss of sleep, pressure of work, and the attendant smear so often put on 'politicians'.

POWER, PROTECTION, PRESTIGE 

Sadly, there are those who get into politics for various reasons, none of which have anything to do with service. People involve themselves in politics for the power that it bestows, the limited protection from legal troubles, should they arise, the networking opportunities that it gives, the prestige and the direct or indirect economic benefits that it accrues.

Anecdotally (I won't mention names here), there are several institutions that are controlled by politicians who have in their employ more than a few individuals who simply turn up for work, do virtually nothing, and collect a pay cheque just like their workmates who had to sacrifice, qualify themselves and slave to get where they are. People complain that it is demotivating and vexing, but they can do nothing about it since these parasites are put there by the higher-ups.

Additionally, political activists sometimes circumvent the contractor general to hire their friends, family members and associates. I vividly recall a patient who had fallen on hard times because 'his party' had been out of power for an extended period.

As soon as the results of the general election were announced, a highly politicised relative of his instructed him to get his earth-moving equipment up and running because he would soon be getting a lot of work. And, he did indeed. 

So, let's face facts. Whatever irked Dr McNeill has been going on in offices, on the road, and on administrative boards, all across the nation, on both sides of the political fence.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com garthrattray@gmail.com.