Thursday 6 August, 2020

A view from the outside: Jamaica first... party third

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) listens to a point in discussion with National Works Agency CEO EG Hunter (second right) during a tour of the infrastructural projects across the Corporate Area recently.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) listens to a point in discussion with National Works Agency CEO EG Hunter (second right) during a tour of the infrastructural projects across the Corporate Area recently.

                                                                  With Karyl Walker

In 1876 the first patent for a telephone was filed by Alexander Graham Bell, a man whose name has been bandied about as the inventor of the marvelous communication tool.

There are however contending views as to whether Bell was, in fact, the real conceptualizer of the device or if he acquired the patent to the groundbreaking invention through chicanery. Some historians have argued that the device was actually the invention of Elisha Gray, a prominent inventor from Chicago and that Bell actually ‘pirated’ his patent.

Bell later went on to found telecommunications giant AT&T, a company that still commands a major share of the US telecommunications market today.

But all that doesn’t matter minutely to the users of the IPhone X, the Samsung Galaxy S9 or the host of other smart phones readily available for use in today’s modern age. Neither Bell nor Gray in their wildest dreams would envision that the invention would improve by such leaps and bounds.

That, as stated before, is of little concern to the consumer, who only wants the best value for money and to enjoy their fancy gadgets.

The same scenario can be likened to the ongoing argument between the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and the opposition People’s National Party over who should get credit for the road projects currently underway in our beloved Jamaica.

I was recently in the island and was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which I could drive through Barbican Square. The commute took less than 10 minutes. No mean feat when compared to a few years ago when driving through that section of the Corporate Area was a nightmare.

I also noticed road works underway along Constant Spring Road, in Harbour View and at the Portia Simpson Miller Square, popularly known as Three Miles. I am sure there are more road projects underway at the time of writing this column.

The issue of who should be credited for this improvement of the island’s infrastructure came to the forefront after Prime Minister Andrew Holness issued a release claiming credit for the improvement of the Portia Simpson Miller Square project which is set to have an overhead bridge and be able to compare to first world infrastructure when it is completed.

Holness’ claim drew the ire of opposition parliamentarians and political hacks alike who claimed he was being disingenuous and unfair as the project was in the pipeline long before the last elections in 2016 and had been negotiated, signed and sealed by then Finance Minister and now party leader, Peter Phillips.

To be fair to the PNP, they have been known as the party to build infrastructure and their record in that area cannot be hidden under a bush. It would not be far fetched to imagine that most of the projects that are now underway were hatched by Phillips’ hard work.

Hard luck for the opposition. It must be unbearable for them to see the present Government being the stewards of their previous hard work as history will record that the projects were completed when the JLP was at the helm. A hard pill to swallow.

The scenario carries me back to the opening of the Half Way Tree Transport Centre some years ago. Work on the centre started during the administration of the Portia Simpson Miller-led government with Bobby Pickersgill at the head of the Transport and Works Ministry but, as fate would have it, was opened by a JLP transport minister, Mike Henry, who had the common decency to invite Pickersgill to the opening ceremony.

The JLP must also be commended for continuing these projects as, in the end, the beneficiaries will be the Jamaican people, regardless of their political leanings. Who knows which party the thousands of commuters who use the transport centre on a daily basis vote for? Who cares?

Another issue that irks me is the tendency of politicians to name national landmarks after others of their ilk. Recently another imbroglio developed when the government stated their intention to name a section of the North South Highway after former Prime Minister Edward Seaga.

That drew another round of condemnation from the opposition who claimed that doing so was an insult to former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who faced stiff opposition from the JLP when the toll road was being constructed.

It is my view that enough national monuments have been named after politicians and that other Jamaicans deserve such honours. After all there is no Bob Marley Boulevard, Usain Bolt Highway, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce Street or Reggae Road? Must politicians get the first pick whenever monuments are being named in honour of a Jamaican’s contribution to nation building? Our educators, athletes, veteran entertainers and public servants are more deserving of such honours in my humble view.

Perhaps Jamaicans could start a petition rooting for no more national monuments to be named after politicians, some of whom are responsible for the rut the nation now finds itself in.

In the end it is Jamaicans at home and abroad who will feel proud of their country and enjoy the use of the modern road network. None of us really care who the inventor is.

That is my view from the outside.

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