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Story Highlights

  • After more than three decades in this Parliament, one would believe that it would be a mere formality speaking in this debate. But, it is such an important annual event, that even a veteran Member like me, still takes pride in participating.
  • I fully support the decision to put time limits on the presentations, and I did not expect the change to be seamless.
  • WEP’s Global Information Technology (GIT) Report 2015, which rates countries, from one to seven, in terms of the effectiveness of the parliamentary institutions, scored Jamaica at 3.4, which is less than 50 percent of highest possible score of seven.

INTRODUCTION

I welcome this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to participate in another Sectoral Debate.

After more than three decades in this Parliament, one would believe that it would be a mere formality speaking in this debate. But, it is such an important annual event, that even a veteran Member like me, still takes pride in participating.

However, Mr. Speaker, I am forced to remind the members, through you, of the changes which have been made to the format. Most importantly, the time limit, and the need not to disrupt members, who need to maximize the limited time available to them.

HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT

As the Leader of Opposition Business in the House, I would like to start by addressing the parliamentary issues.

Mr. Speaker, I fully support the decision to put time limits on the presentations, and I did not expect the change to be seamless. So I understand the teething pains and I hope that by next year we can iron out these kinks.

Mr. Speaker, I don’t know if you are familiar with the recently published World Economic Forum report which ranked our Parliament at 86, or in the bottom half of the 143 countries rated in terms of  the effectiveness of their law making institutions.

WEP’s Global Information Technology (GIT) Report 2015, which rates countries, from one to seven, in terms of the effectiveness of the parliamentary institutions, scored Jamaica at 3.4, which is less than 50 percent of highest possible score of seven.

I can’t say how accurate this ranking is, but the fact is that it was supported by a reputable international survey and the report is generally accepted, internationally.

Jamaica was criticised for the slow processes of its Parliament, and the report reminded us of the need for reforms to modernize our Parliament: In other words, step up to the 21st century.

I don’t think that any of us could reasonably dispute that.

In light of all of this, it is really inconceivable how the present Government could have taken such a ridiculous decision, as to discontinue the programme of expansion of Gordon House which was started under the previous government.

You stop the progress, ignore the properties acquired under the expansion programme, and say no more money will be spent on the facilities until you are ready to construct a new Parliament building.

But, when are you going to construct the new building?

I know that won’t happen any time soon, because the government does not have the courage to make an announcement like that between now and the next general election.

But, in the meantime, what you are doing is only making the dream of a new parliament building more elusive, because the members and the staff cannot work properly in these conditions and the public has become very apprehensive.

Are to remain confined within this building, originally constructed to house the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC), unable to meet either our local or international commitments as a 21st century Parliament , and waiting until the government finds it opportune to construct a new building?

As long as our committees cannot find the space to meet; as long as our staff are unable to perform efficiently, and as long as disabled Jamaicans cannot even access the building, it is evidence that while we are failing the people who elected us:

When we continue to fail our people, we lose their trust and confidence, slowly but surely, and that is not something that is easy to recover.

Mr. Speaker, I am appealing to the Government to either re-think their decision to discontinue the expansion we had started, or to commence the construction of a new Parliament before the end of the current parliamentary year.

I am also appealing to the Minister of Finance and Planning to find the funds for the either the necessary improvements to the building, or to start construct of a new one, as quickly as possible…READ MORE

Download Contribution to the 2015/2016 Sectoral Debate by Mr. Derrick Smith