For the poor's sake

Monday, February 25, 2013

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TAKING care of indigents is something that well-ordered societies do. In order to achieve that ideal, those societies establish agencies and/or work with organisations that engage in this kind of effort — organisations with people committed to ensuring that their fellow human beings, though poor, can at least live with some amount of dignity.

There are a number of such organisations in Jamaica. Father Richard Ho Lung's Missionaries of the Poor, Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon's Mustard Seed Communities, and Food For The Poor come readily to mind.

Add to that the fact that the Government receives substantial assistance from Jamaica's overseas friends — the European Union, the United States Agency for International Development, the Canadian International Development Agency, and Britain's Department for International Development, to name but a few — whose programmes help poor Jamaicans in a number of ways. Successive governments have never failed to express their appreciation for this unwavering assistance and, we are sure, have always met the administrative requirements for this aid, as these agencies must account for the monies and other forms of assistance they distribute on behalf of their governments.

It is against that background that we find a bit puzzling the complaints by a number of Jamaican parliamentarians regarding what is required of them to provide housing for their poor constituents.

Last week in the legislature, it emerged that only three of 17 members of parliament have so far done what was necessary to provide for their poor constituents under the Government of Jamaica/Food For The Poor five-year Wooden Houses initiative being administered by the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme.

According to Dr Morais Guy, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, each of the 17 MPs is allotted 20 houses which are to be built in his/her constituency. However, most of the MPs have been tardy in submitting the necessary documentation for their constituents. As such, Food For The Poor has been building a number of the houses on its own from its database.

This documentation, Dr Guy said, was necessary to satisfy Food For The Poor's contractual requirements to build at least 100 of these houses per month.

But according to Mr Desmond McKenzie, the representative for Kingston Western, MPs are being hampered by the amount of documentation required. His colleague legislators, Messrs Richard Parchment (St Elizabeth South East) and Fitz Jackson (St Catherine South) were reportedly critical of the process as well.

Mr Parchment, while admitting that he has been informed by Food For The Poor that some of his documentation was incomplete, raised the issue of the speed at which the charity was constructing the houses. If his complaint is valid, it needs to be addressed.

However, we can't see what would prevent Mr Parchment and his colleagues from ensuring that they meet what appears to be a perfectly legitimate administrative requirement from Food For The Poor. After all, they are seized, we are sure, with the importance of providing for the indigent, just as their colleagues, Mrs Marisa Dalrymple Philibert (Trelawny South), Mr Patrick Atkinson (Trelawny North), and Rev Ronald Thwaites (Kingston Central) who, based on the number of houses they have already secured for their poor constituents, seem not to be bothered by the amount of documentation required.

Instead of griping about documentation, why not just get the work done ... for the sake of the poor.




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