Davies defiant - Finance Minister defends spending on projects during elections
published: Friday | February 14, 2003
By Garwin Davis, Assistant News Editor
MINISTER OF Finance Dr. Omar Davies said comments he made last Sunday at a People's National Party (PNP) constituency conference regarding the handling of projects prior to last October's general election have been misconstrued for political purposes.
In an interview with The Gleaner last night, the Minister, amid calls from the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) that he should resign, said he had no problem admitting that the Government took the decision to continue with projects during the build-up to the general election, even though there were other pressing issues facing the country at the time.
"What is it that I said that is causing all this commotion?," Dr. Davies asked. "I said there were some critical projects going on and that a decision had to be taken whether we should continue with the projects we had started or not. As Minister, I took the decision to go through...to have them completed...that's the decision I stand by."
Speaking at a PNP North West St. Andrew constituency conference on Sunday, Dr. Davies said the Government made public spending decisions during the election campaign knowing they were financially unsound. "Last year on the road to the fourth term there was no way I was going to stop any project which we had on the ground," Dr. Davies said at the conference. "Even with the flooding, even with the other things them...there is no way I was going to stop the projects. If it was another time I probably would have held back on other things and deal with the flood damage...but there was no time and I am not going to make any apologies for it," he added. "The question we face is that now that we have reached, we have to correct it."
Asked yesterday to explain the comments, a defiant Dr. Davies said, "What is it that is so alarming? When you give straight answers you are cried down...when you don't, you are cried down. I am not clear on what is the problem. I also said I would rather be here correcting the problem rather than being on the outside watching Mr. Seaga correct it. Admittedly, continuing the projects helped our cause as the Government in power but I asked this: which Government, whether in the USA., Canada or the U.K. would have stopped a project in the middle of a campaign to give the Opposition an advantage? That's what I said."
Dr. Davies' comments have not however found favour with the JLP.
The party's spokesman on finance Audley Shaw last night called on the Minister to resign.
"Despite his denials in Parliament to my claim of ministerial deception, the Minister has now publicly admitted that he made public spending decisions prior to the elections which were financially unsound," Mr. Shaw said.
"On the basis of the smug admission of the Minister who has exhibited the highest levels of irresponsibility in managing the financial affairs of the country, I now repeat the call I made in Parliament that the Minister of Finance should resign. He has lost all credibility and moral authority on which to continue as Finance Minister. Not only should he resign but he should apologise to the people of Jamaica. Failure to do both will cause me to move a motion of censure in Parliament against the Minister for misleading the Parliament and the people of Jamaica."
And turning to the financial sector where the Minister also at last Sunday's constituency meeting blasted the Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF) for its criticism of the salary increase to parliamentarians, Dr. Davies said he had no apologies to make. "I can understand the unions taking that position but not the JEF," he said. "They are being hypocritical and I have no problem saying that." The Minister said many of those who are now talking, benefited from the demise of the financial sector.
JEF president Herbert Lewis said his association was waiting to see a full text of the Minister's comments before responding. He however added that if the Minister had evidence that people had ripped off financial sector agencies "then there are legal avenues which he could pursue".