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Mr Montague was shuffled out, but what is Dr Tufton's excuse?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

As a country we have been so often suckered by politicians and their promises that we run the risk of just hissing our teeth each time a major announcement is made.

Last year, before he was jettisoned from the National Security Ministry, Mr Robert Montague promised, with much fanfare of course, that the Government would shortly be expanding its CCTV capacity and would spend $465.4 million on the purchase of additional telecommunications equipment.

We in this space were hopeful, even if cautious, that the country was at last going to learn from other countries, especially China, in seriously utilising one of the most effective tools against crime — CCTV technology.

We cited China because of its investment last year in what it said was “the world's biggest camera surveillance network”, called 'Dragonfly Eye', featuring 170 million CCTV cameras already across that country and approximately 400 million new ones to be installed in the next three years.

The sheer volume of the network aside, what really stood out to us was the Chinese Government's revelation that many of the cameras are fitted with artificial intelligence, including facial recognition technology.

A report in the online edition of Britain's Daily Mail newspaper told us that the system could identify criminals among a database of two billion faces within seconds.

The system had already been used in Shanghai to track down hundreds of wanted criminals and helped police bring in 567 suspected criminals on Shanghai's subways.

The use of technology, we maintain, is vital in any anti-crime effort, hence Mr Montague's promise to expand our CCTV capacity was welcomed by Jamaicans. Nothing, it seems, has become of the promise. Perhaps Dr Horace Chang, the new security minister can shed some light on the matter.

Another major announcement last year came from Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton that the Government was going to carry out a major overhaul of the country's health care infrastructure over two years. We should have been at least halfway there by now.

At the time, we said in this space that we would hold our applause until we actually see the work started or completed. The programme was to benefit from $3.5 billion from the reserves of the National Health Fund (NHF).

We were especially encouraged by Dr Tufton's assurance that using money from the NHF would not affect the viability of the fund. In fact, he said that the measure was in keeping with the NHF's mandate. He explained further that the NHF then had $10 billion in reserves.

“…What is important is that the country cannot continue to limp along with an ailing infrastructure and pretend that we are able to respond to the health challenges our people face. We have to do something and we need to do it now,” the minister emphasised.

He was, of course, absolutely correct and we said so at the time. Good thing we had withheld our applause. Perhaps Dr Tufton might care to tell us how much of that major overhaul in our health infrastructure has been achieved.

Mr Montague can claim that his CCTV plan did not pan out because he was shuffled out of the Cabinet. What is Dr Tufton's excuse?