Finally, I understand what former republican representative from Missouri, Todd Akin, must have meant by “legitimate rape”.

We’ve been made to listen to a litany of rotten excuses for the Government’s legitimate rape of Jamaica’s treasury by the purchase of 21 luxury vehicles, including sixteen SUVs, for Ministers to drive.

Rotten Excuse 1:       The JLP depleted government’s fleet of vehicles by selling 30 to ministers and senior civil servants.

The People’s Reply:   So what? Who’s going to halt this cycle of legitimate rape of Jamaica’s treasury?  Repeating JLP folly (which itself repeats previous governments’ folly) of buying new cars for sale in 3-5 years at rapidly depreciated “book value” isn’t governance.  It’s tit for tat. We the people, who employ the government and must pay for this legitimate rape, suggest that ministers drive their own cars with the usual government allowances for upkeep.  Or GOJ purchases cheaper second-hand vehicles.  Must we endure these vulgar purchases every 3-5 years ad infinitum regardless of the state of Jamaica’s finances?

Rotten Excuse 2:        The purchases were necessary as some ministers were driving their own cars.

The people’s Reply:   So what?  It’s “necessary” for ministers to have transport.  It’s NOT “necessary” to buy brand new SUVs.  “Necessary” means essential.  It’s when something is needed not wanted.

Rotten Excuse 3:       The ministers need reliable cars to do their jobs and must drive over dangerous terrain.

The People’s Reply:   Jamaica’s terrain doesn’t include a single square foot reserved only for ministers to drive on.  We all drive on dangerous terrain.  The difference is that, when our front ends collapse, we pay for the repairs.  By the way, I notice a 2012 Mercedes Benz has been assigned to Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, a junior Minister in the Industry, Investment and Commerce Ministry.  We want to know specifically, where Mrs Ffolkes-Abrahams needs to drive to do her job and exactly how that Benz is expected to better handle dangerous terrain.  Puh-leeeze!

Rotten Excuse 4:       The Administration took the country’s fiscal constraints into consideration by buying in bulk to secure a significant discount.  This  move saved the government millions of dollars.

The People’s Reply:    Really?  Seriously?  Government, who altered its own motor vehicle policy by first raising the “cap” on each car from under US$30,000 to US$35,000 and then ordered 21 luxury vehicles nineteen of which cost over US$34,000 each, saved us “millions of dollars”?  This has to be either history’s most brainless argument most conscienceless.  In either case, it mustn’t be allowed to go unanswered.

Let’s take a close look at how our compassionate government saved us “millions of dollars”.  With apologies for singling her out, for convenience only, let’s look at detailed information gleaned from the C87 Customs Declaration for the 2012 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado purchased and assigned to Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna.  The declared CIF Value is $3,137,380.15

If you imported this car into Jamaica, you’d have been forced, by Parliamentary edicts passed by ministers like these wearing their MP hats, to make the following contributions to the nation’s revenues:

  1. Customs Duty of $941,208.05.  Duty paid on this car was $156,848.01;
  2. Special Consumption Tax (SCT) of $658,845.63.  SCT paid was zero;
  3. Customs GCT of $848,910.86.  GCT paid was zero;
  4. Customs User Fee (CUF) of $62,747.20.  CUF paid was zero;
  5. SNVL (a combo of fees/levies) of $16,686.80.  SNVL paid was zero

Of total import duties, taxes and fees imposed by Parliament on the importation of this Minister’s Prado of $2,528,398.54, government, on your behalf, waived $2,371,530.53.  Only $156,868.01 was paid.

If $2.37 million of taxes intended to bolster our national budget was waived for one SUV, the rough estimate for all 16 would be $38,000,000.00 on the SUVs alone.  Five more luxury cars and we’re talking $50 million in revenues denied to Jamaica.  Added to over $60 million purchase price that’s a double whammy (repeated legitimate rape) to the consolidated fund of $110 million.  That’s how our government “saved” us “millions of dollars”.

On the subject of needing this car to do her job, the Prado assigned the Youth Minister has 5 doors and seats seven (7).  What job is that, Minibus driver?

Now, let’s do a hypothetical calculation. CIF plus duties payable would have made the landed cost of the Prado assigned to Miss Hanna $5,665,778.00.  Assuming a 10% mark-up, the market value would be circa $6.3 million.  So, a car valued at over $6 million has been imported and “assigned” to Miss Hanna at an out-of pocket cost of $3,137,380.15 + $156,848.01 (taxes actually paid) = $3,294,228.16.

Suppose that’s the “book value” assigned to that car and, suppose annual depreciation of, say 15% is applied.  In 3 years time, the “book value’ of that car will be $2,000,000.00.  Is Miss Hanna going to be “sold” that car for $2,000,000.00 (or less)?  What would it then be worth on the open market?  Would the next government, PNP or JLP, then blame this government for “depleting” the fleet of motor vehicles and buy 21 more brand new cars with a view to repeating the cycle ad nauseam?  Where in all this “entitlement” is concern for the peoples’ plight?

As I turn up the collar on my favourite winter coat,
this wind is blowin’ my mind.
I see the kids in the street
with not enough to eat.
Who am I, to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs.

Jamaicans have taken a lot of crap from political leaders for 50 years while the economy has stagnated, jobs disappeared; health services reduced to ramshackle; education nonexistent; transport brutish and boorish.  The only national indicator that’s grown over the period is the contempt that political leaders have shown to us.  We’ve been treated like village idiots, given a free curry goat (or a “Nanny”) for our vote; bussed to political meetings to work as “extras” for the TV sit-com our politics has become; asked to sacrifice; and told the “cupboard is bare” when we seek to hedge against government-induced inflation with meagre wage increases.

I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love.                                                                                                                               It’s time that I realize
that there are some with no home; not a nickel to loan.
Could it be really me
pretending that they’re not alone?

Remember Peter Phillips “new Covenant” Budget, presented May 24, 2012 when he said:

Mr Speaker, the best gift that this Parliament can give Jamaica in this 50th year of Independence is a new and binding covenant with the people of Jamaica … to achieve fiscal consolidation and debt sustainability.

Now we know the full terms and conditions of the “New Covenant”.  We the people must suck salt through a wooden spoon.  We the people must suffer craters the size of meteor strikes in our roads preventing children from attending school.  We the people must beg long suffering taxi drivers to brave the dangerous terrain to pick us up from home and take us to work.  Then we must pay increased taxi fares using frozen salaries.  We must bear the burden of $20 billion in new taxes.  On the other hand, Ministers as Parliamentarians impose these taxes; pass these budgets; fail to address our local concerns about bad roads; but they must drive brand new SUVs worth over $6 million each; upon which only 6% of the taxes payable have been paid; with a legitimate expectation of purchasing these “crissers” at a purchase price well below 50% of market; thereafter to do with them what they will.

A summer’s disregard; a broken bottle top;
and a one man’s soul.  They follow each other on the wind ya’ know
’cause they got nowhere to go…

Are we going to put up with this lop-sided covenant?  Are we going to insist that, regardless of how legitimate this motor vehicle policy may be; regardless of how “entitled” to these perks the ministers may be, this flagrant contempt for the peoples’ plight must not be allowed?  It’s not everything to which we’re “entitled” we can morally claim.  At this time, when the country has dangerously low foreign reserves; when citizens’ backs are breaking under the welter weight of new taxes; when formally well-to-do families are eating chicken back; when most of us must postpone Christmas; it’s wrong to claim that to which you have made yourself entitled by self-made policy.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror.
I’m asking him to change his ways.  And no message could have been any clearer.                                If you wanna make the world a better place,
take a look at yourself, and, then, make a change.

This is not governance.  This is tyranny.  We must reject tyranny at the very first sight or suffer its oppressive jackboot forever.

By the way, kudos to Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, Foreign Affairs Minister A.J. Nicholson, Environment Minister Robert Pickersgill, Justice Minister Mark Golding, Labour Minister Derrick Kellier, Education Minister Ronnie Thwaites and my favourite M.P, Julian Jay Robinson, for whom no cars have (yet) been purchased.  I know Julian recently fell off his bicycle and injured his knee whilst going about his constituency business.  I’m proud of him.  My critique doesn’t apply to any of those named unless, of course, they succumb to temptation at a later date.

Michael Jackson was one of the greatest creative geniuses who ever lived.  He understood it’ll take true love to heal the world.  Selfishness dressed up as love won’t cut it.  Finger-pointing only wastes time.  It must stop now and it begins with the man in each of our mirrors.  We must insist it stops now.

Lyricist, Siedah Garrett, as a young singer, got her big chance singing a duet with Michael (“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”) on his album “Bad”.  One day, she sat beside composer Glen Ballard while he idly played with a new melody on his piano.  Suddenly, the lyrics to Man in the Mirror came rushing to her consciousness.  She scribbled them down (with Glen’s music) and submitted the song to Quincy Jones.  Within days, Quincy called to say it was the best he’d heard in decades.  It became one of Michael’s signatures.

Peace and Love


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