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Just how much is crime to cost, Peter Phillips?

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, July 22, 2018

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Peace is costly, but it is worth the expense. — Kenyan proverb

I believe the life of every Jamaican is priceless. It seems, however, that the People's National Party has placed a finite monetary value on our lives. How else must we interpret the bellyaching last Tuesday in Parliament from Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition Dr Peter Phillips, Dr Fenton Ferguson, and other members of the Opposition about the cost of operations of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) at $31 million per month.

Last Wednesday, The Gleaner reported, among other things: “Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips expressed concern about the costs associated with the state of emergency. He argued that, based on figures presented by the prime minister, the cost of the operations by the Jamaica Constabulary Force alone was $31 million per month, so in the seven months we're looking in the order of a quarter-billion dollars for St James.” This is poppycock from Phillips.

The provision of good order, which includes the security of its citizens, is the primary function of a State. Thomas Jefferson, one of America's founding fathers and principal author of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, has provided, in my estimation, one of the best definitions of government to date. In a letter to the citizens of Washington county in 1809, Jefferson said: “The care of human life, happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”

Jefferson explained that the purpose of government was five-fold:

1. acknowledge and adore god — Jefferson was a deist, he meant the god in nature not Jehovah, Jesus, etc;

2. exercise frugality;

3. restrain the infliction of injury — meaning keeping citizens safe;

4. encourage entrepreneurship and free enterprise; and

5. protect property, earnings of citizens.

I suspect some of my readers will immediately, say, ah, but America is a 242-year-old liberal democracy and Jamaica is but a few months shy of 56. Some will even say Jefferson was referring to white males. You are correct in both instances. Those realities, in my view, however, do not nullify a fact which credible political scholars before and since Jefferson have agreed on; that is, the primary purpose for which a Government exists is the provision and preservation of good order.

Phillips, I gather, has a doctorate in an area of political science. What then explains his counter-intuitive response to the JCF's cost of operations? I believe the answer is blind spot politics. What is that, some might ask? Here is an explanation: People's National Party (PNP) Chairman Emeritus Robert “Bobby” Pickersgill told the country some time ago: “We believe it is best for us to form the Government; therefore, anything that will lead us or cause us to be in power is best for the PNP and best for the country.” Pickersgill has not apologised for this utterance. The PNP's strategy of, say something, anything, about everything, is built on a rotten scaffolding.

Crime is costing Jamaica, dearly!

This information might help Dr Phillips and the PNP to understand the deadly impact of crime and violence on our economic growth and development. A Gleaner story of October 13, 2017 said, among other things: “Crime does not pay, but it certainly is costing the Government of Jamaica a tidy sum; amounting to $68 billion per year — a dollar figure the National Security Minister Robert Montague says could fund the construction of 16 new schools.

“Addressing the first Jamaica Geographic Information System (GIS) User Conference on Tuesday, Montague cited ministry data revealing the monetary impact that the high levels of crime have been having on Jamaica's fiscal space.

“ 'Crime is costing us a lot of money in this country. It is estimated by the World Bank that crime is costing Jamaica five per cent of GDP [gross domestic product] per year, which translates to about $68 billion per year,' said Montague.

“It cost the Government approximately $400,000 per day to keep a gunshot victim in intensive care. Jamaica sees, on average, approximately 2,000 gunshot victims per year, according to the minister.

“ 'So, if you do the math, it gives you an idea of the cost of crime in Jamaica and how it affects you, because as much as the prime minister and the minister of finance gave back to our public servants the $1.5-million tax-free, that money is being sucked by the persons who [are] in our hospitals,' stated Montague.

“ 'So even if you are not a victim of crime, you are also paying for the cost of crime in this country,' Montague added.

“Juxtaposing the value of crime against what he said was much-needed national infrastructure development, the security minister said that, in reality, the $68 billion could fund the construction of 16 high schools in addition to 30 new hospitals.

“ 'We could build some 30 hospitals, furnish them and staff them. We could upgrade and put Barber-Greene on 100 of our Grade A roads in Jamaica, and every one of us knows what that means,' he reasoned.

“ 'We could repair every clinic and every school and have money left over. We could repair and furnish every government office. That is the cost of crime, not only to the country, but to every single one of us,' Montague said.”

The Economist of March 20, 2008 stated that: “If Caribbean countries were able to reduce crime levels to those similar to Costa Rica (with a homicide rate of 8.1/100,000), their rates of economic growth would increase notably. In the cases of Jamaica and Haiti, gross domestic product growth would be boosted by a massive 5.4 per cent annually; growth in the Dominican Republic would be 1.8 percentage points higher; and Guyana's economy would grow by an additional 1.7 points per year.”

One does not need a degree in theoretical physics to see that our long-standing problem of crime and violence, in particular murders, is eating away at every aspect of the society. I believe Phillips's concerns about the monetary costs of the states of emergency (SOE) and zones of special operations (ZOSOs) smacks of rank insensitivity and a lack of appreciation for the sanctity of human life. I believe even if only one fewer Jamaican were murdered as a consequence of the SOEs and ZOSOs, the financial outlay would have constituted sound judgement and prudent use of tax resources.

Additionally, what does the PNP have against ordinary folks getting back more of their own taxes as a direct benefit? The data below shows that dozens of Jamaicans are alive today because of the implementation of the SOEs and ZOSOs: “Prime Minister Andrew Holness disclosed that between January 1 and July 7 there have been 51 murders, that's a 67 per cent decrease compared to the similar period last year.

“The state of emergency was first declared on January 18 prompted by 336 murders and 255 shootings in St James last year.

“ 'The argument is that it's only for St James that the state of emergency has been effective, but if you look you will see that at the point of the declaration of the state of emergency ... the average daily murders have fallen from 4.65 to 3.44 nationally. So it is cumulative,' Holness said.” ( The Gleaner, July 17, 2018)

I was not surprised at Dr Phillips's bellyaching at the $31 million monthly SOE operational costs for the JCF. It is consistent with the PNP's stance on the SOEs and ZOSOs from the get-go. Recall that Dr Phillips and the PNP opposed the implementation of the ZOSO initiative. He termed the laws as “oppressive”. He lent only “qualified support” to the SOE in St James after he saw that overwhelming public sentiment was going against his party.

Last week, Phillips and the PNP again realised that public opinion was so far stacked against them they had no choice but to support an additional extension of the St James state of emergency for 90 days.

Dr Phillips is a former minister of national security. In fact, the PNP has three former ministers of national security in the Parliament — K D Knight, Peter Bunting and Phillips. Crime spiralled under the watch of all three. Knight was in charge of national security for more than a decade. His time at bat was woeful at best.

Recall a Miami Herald article of October 31, 2001, titled 'Jamaica struggling to cut its alarming murder rate - New head of national security faces a raging crime wave', noted among other things: “Knight said he regretted that the country's crime rate had not declined during his tenure.”

The Suppression of Crime Act which Knight inherited did not assist him one bit to tame the monster of crime. It was was put in place in 1974. Sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon Peter Espeut, in one of his many insightful articles, made this observation in relation to the dreaded Suppression of Crime Act: “It placed extraordinary powers into the hands of the police to stop, search, and detain, and led to the erosion and abuse of the human rights of many poor Jamaicans. The Suppression of Crime Act did not lead to the suppression of crime and had to be repealed.” ( The Gleaner, February 17, 2017) This act was repealed after 20 years.

In November 2001, Phillips was appointed minister of national security. I believe Phillips was an abysmal failure: “In 2002, the murder rate moved to 40 per 100,000, and by 2005 it had risen to 64 per 100,000 of the population, placing Jamaica among nations with the highest murder rates in the world.” [Jamaica Constabulary Force: Police Crime Statistics].

On Phillips's watch murders peaked at 1,674 in 2005. [JCF statistics]. Recall that when Phillips was minister of national security he told the country we needed “severe, extreme and resolute measures” to fight crime.

Peter Bunting was national security minister from January 2012 to February 25, 2016. Recall that it was Bunting, who told us in January 2015, when nearly four Jamaicans were being butchered daily, that we should not be “unduly alarmed”.

Who can forget these, especially gruesome murders?

• A 14-year-old girl, Santoya Campbell, was brutally killed; her body stuffed into a garbage bag and dumped near her school in Westmoreland.

• A retired nurse, Hyacinth Hayden, was attacked and stabbed to death in her house in Trelawny.

• Two men, one of them said to be in his late 60s, were shot dead on Molynes Road by gunmen travelling in a car.

• Police Constable Orville Preddie was slaughtered at a bar in Manchester by gunmen after they found out he was a cop.

• A young banker, 27-year-old Kirt Adlam, was murdered by gunmen, his body found with multiple gunshot wounds in his car on Woodpecker Avenue in Kingston.

Bunting told us that the Bill to effect the ZOSO initiative was “unnecessary”. Right-thinking Jamaicans need to ask, unnecessary for whom? It seems to me that the rot of unenlightened self-interest has firmly set in at 89 Old Hope Road.

Good move

This was a heart-warming piece of news. It should have made even the most sceptical Jamaican feel good about our country.

“The Government has moved to set up a Rastafari Trust Fund to benefit survivors of the 1963 massacre of Rastafarians in Coral Gardens in St James.

“Speaking in the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Minister of Culture Olivia Grange said $12 million has already been transferred to the Administrator General's Department, which is to administer the fund, adding that the Government has committed to provide it with $30 million annually.

“Grange said the fund's creation is in keeping with the Government's support of the survivors of the incident.

“ 'Since the prime minister's apology on behalf of the Government of Jamaica in 2017 we have built a positive working relationship with the Rastafari community. We are committed to national support for the 21 elders so far identified by the Office of the Public Defender,' Grange said.

“In addition to the fund, the culture minister said she will be discussing with the Ministry of Education the creation of three annual scholarships to benefit members of the Rastafari community.”

When will the PNP apologise for the 1976 State of Emergency, Green Bay Massacre and similar atrocities?

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct . — Thomas Carlyle

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.

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