Who Should We Entrust with our Heritage?

         Recent public outlash and outrage has been circulating about a pennyfoolish purchase by the National Housing Trust of the Outameni Experience. I can understand why someone who is unaware of the potential such an acquisition holds would be outraged. The Opposition Spokesman on Housing, Dr. Horace Chang said, I’m para-phrasing, “The purchase comes as a surprise to me, the land was surveyed and no possible gains can come from making such a purchase.” Recent events however, have outlined to me many means for the government and the country to benefit, but at the people’s expense. Also, unfortunately when the government benefits from ventures it undertakes, political history has shown that it is also at the people’s expense, for example Operation Pride, Spencer Light Bulb Saga, Trafigura, Tivoli Incursion etc.
          Jamaica’s estimated debt by the end of  2012, if I recall was JMD $1.34 Trillion. The government sought assistance at the time from several financial institutions mimmicking similar gambits  of other worldwide sovereignties. Air Jamaica had already been in major debt before bankruptcy and the government had to disengage it’s ownership. The same administration who made that deal was the same whose Minister of Finance at the time, Audley Shaw, said that we needn’t worry about what is happening to Greece during the 2008 Global Economic Meltdown, as there were no such chances of a global crisis affecting us. Of course, I had seen how such a great monarchy as Espana resorted to bailouts from banking institutions, Barack Obama faced heavy criticism about his decisions to help General Motors and Daimer and Chrysler part ways. Alot of mergers and acquisitions began to take shape, Volkswagen among the top buyers. When the administration changed hands and Gordon House was handed over, the current government realised a debt that no amount of fund-raising could conquer. The recognized international institutions for such business would definitely be the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Immediately the current Minister of Finance, along with the preceding Attorney General planed and penned their way to a desireable approval rating for Jamaica enabling the road to be paved for US $758 Million to be trucked our way. Under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), a combined sum of US $2 Billion will be given to the country’s executives to launder. Key conditions made in the backdoor deal include alot of foreign legislature introduced since the turn of this administration’s term and increase in tax and tariff which are key figures in the deal if it’s to be completed and also if Jamaica is to make a smooth transition through and past her debt.
Any money borrowed has interest tied to it and the money that was initially loaned to the administration is only 3/4 of a Billion. The monetary value of these quarterly assessments and installments vary. With the new oppressive laws and taxes we face after bending over backwards to international authorities we are still nowhere near halfway, where paying our bills are concerned.
          We’ve already lost ownership of most of our refineries whether sugar, coffee, or bauxite etc and the first class roads being built here are being constructed by foreign contractors who hardly employ Jamaicans and who require future payment for the work done and profit it generates. The entire acreage of land which encompasses the Outameni Experience is also a renowned racehorse-breeding ground, it also was the property of several plantation owners and slave traders. It is an authentic root in Jamaica’s Sacred Historical Garden, right up there with Jamaica’s Historical Timeline of Events and none can deny that of that, Caymanas Track & CTL are not apart. The landmarks and occurrences help shape and dictate a cultural path and eventual pattern based in our ancestry. Trench Town is another such site, producing so many impactful individuals and marking Kingston, Jamaica’s place on the world map for all time, if never before. Other similarly vital locations include; Morant Bay Courthouse, Sam Sharpe Square, Waterfront, Pinnacle, Pedro Cays, Blue Mountain, Cockpit Country, Frome and Montego Bay. I would certainly agree that the entire plot of land acquired has the capability of being developed into a multi-faceted tourist and public attraction with the necessary and maybe even luxurious facilities. Thus in turn, along with it’s rich history and upkeep qualifying as a national and international historic landmark or heritage site. Once the location qualifies, international authorities are instantly ready to disburse moneys to both the people of the nation, the country’s government and the Fund associated with preservation and maintenance of such a location.
        The Government of Jamaica would certainly have much to gain from a move such as this especially where sights on Vision2030 are concerned. Tourism is Jamaica’s major Foreign Exchange earner, surpassing Remittances and Exports. Developing new ways of attracting tourists from different regions of the world is always good. Garnering the spending power of varied consumers can give the overall effort a well-needed boost, and Tourism exists in branches as does anything. Our coral reefs appeal to Eco-Tourists, as do our hills and valleys to Geo-Tourists. The Little Theatre, The Ward Theatre would appeal to our guests interests in pantomime and film and also those interested in modern history. Pinnacle lands would certainly have been declared an international historical landmark if not for the privatization of the acreage. Apart from the recognition, the financial benefits would in essence aid in the cause of having the debt repaid.
          All the anguish and shock expressed at the Prime Minister’s ignorance olf the proceedings is quite uncalled for to me and it should have been expected. In recent preceding months, the NHT was the entity who was called to help bailout the government. One can never ask a loan institution about its planned economic endeavors or current financial ventures, or even about its investments, where the money originates and so on. My concern about this is that it is the responsibility of our National Heritage Trust and other Cultural Associations to see to the proper perservation of our heritage. We all know the Housing Trust collects mandatory contributions and in exchange provides housing to low and high-income contributors. The acquisition of the property and it’s consistency with the NHT Mandate should be challenged, the OCG should also investigate the legal, financial and contractual framework of the deal. Nevertheless, whatever the intent, the people of Jamaica should have been notified as it is their constitutional entitlement which have been breeched by the sale and purchase of the land. I am estatic that the land was not privatized and gifted to foreigners but irate that it was the NHT alone who recognized an importance in preserving a tangible essential historical artifact and acting upon that recognition.  Organizations with the responsibility of prioritizing and preserving our nation’s heritage are at this time busy twiddling thumbs while patriotic Jamaicans assume the logical position in the matter. It’s ironic how the entire board was called to resign in such a trivial matter, yet other episodes of political mismanagement have been tolerated. The government should have the ultimate authority in governing the people’s affairs, but if the government struggles to function then obviously certain obligations of office might also be none existent or experience failure to launch. I think more attention needs to be paid to the unavailability of government and partisan contracts to the public. Such documents need to be publically accessible as does the Constitution. It is my belief that each citizen ought to know his/her right in aid of knowing when such entitlements are oppressed. Whether the land is developed into a facility I described or real estate is the result, it’s certainly a feasible format for forging financial fortitude.

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