Gov’t underfunded?

Opposition Leader Bruce Golding has reiterated that the cost of servicing the country’s debt has left the Government with inadequate funds to undertake development in areas such as education, health and law enforcement.

Mr. Golding has also charged that economic growth has been negligible over the past decade under the People’s National Party Government, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

The Opposition Leader made the comments Monday, while addressing the Jamaica National Building Society’s Outlook Forum at the Signature Grand in Davie, Florida. According to him, there have been six consecutive years when the cost of servicing the debt exceeded the total revenues of the country.

“Three quarters of our population was born since 1962 when, as a teenager, I felt there was a horizon of opportunity and the world was at our command. Today I feel that after 43 years of independence every adult should have a job to go to,” Golding said. The reality, he added, is that “many lives have been destroyed.”

The Jamaica Labour Party leader pointed to the financial meltdown of the 1990s, which he said had “left our country in shambles.”

Noting that Jamaica had one of the highest murder rates in the world, Golding said the level of crime must be reduced. “The greatest deterrent to criminals is the likelihood of being caught and punished,” he said, pointing out that less than 50 per cent of murderers in Jamaica are caught and less than half of those are convicted.

Mr. Golding also made the call for better policing strategies. To this end, he said the police force must be given state of the art technology and that talented personnel must be found and trained. “I believe our number one concern must be to fight crime. If you cannot keep the people safe they will have no use for schools or hospitals for they will already be dead.”

He also repeated the Opposition’s call for redefining the role of the army. According to him, “We do not have the capacity nor do we envisage the need to fight any external army.” As such, he is of the view that the army should be scaled down to between 1,000 and 1,500 soldiers who would be retained for marine patrols, port security and emergencies such as natural disasters. They would also assist the police in dealing with major disturbances. Those released from the army would be used to strengthen the police force.

Among those in attendance at the forum were Consul General Ricardo Allicock; former principal at Denham Town High School, Mrs. Clover Thompson; JLP spokesman on Tourism, Edmund Bartlett and Earl Jarrett, general manager, JNBS.