GETTING BACK TO THE SOURCE
I notice with much consternation that Dr.Vin Lawrence is to take over the management of our unfortunate Power Supply project. This gentleman was the former head of the UDC is during my working time, and has been on other major projects.
Reading Mr Samuda’s comments in the Gleaner yesterday, it appears Dr. Lawrence’s reputation is somewhat less than stellar. The respected office of the Contractor General points out that there was a problem in that the Sandals Whitehouse project some years ago, for which he was in charge, lost some US$43 million of the Country’s money in the construction, not an easy loss to accept considering the US Dollar rate to-day.
The project was two years behind in completion; further there were so many defects in construction I understand, that the Sandals Group had to get in and make them good which cost additional time and money.
Then there were many other problems during his administration, and I can recall a strike at the Dunn’s River Resort, and the Caribbean being considered a corrupt place to do business, especially where Jamaica was the reference, all of which was within his portfolio.
Air Jamaica under Government control and Lawrence’s subsequently incurred losses in excess of US$900 million over the 5 1/2-year period since the administration took back control, representing an annual average loss of US$170 million per annum. And this was by operating only seven aircraft, comparable with average of the losses of US$67 million per annum operating 20 aircraft.
“Lawrence never understood the business and the model being used,” one industry insider suggested. “He opted for a foolhardy model to abandon services and downsize when in fact Air Jamaica’s entire structure belied the possibility of a low-cost airline.”
On reflection, the insider noted, Lawrence should not have been expected to understand the marketplace and the service aspects; hence he quickly scuttled Air Jamaica Vacations which was a vital feed for airline traffic.
“So with all that, plus an open cheque book and propaganda at his command, with no need to disclose the financial catastrophe that was going on, Air Jamaica ended up on the junk heap, losing US$900 million in 5 1/2 years and showing that it is a lot easier to demolish an airline that to build an airline,” the insider said. “All of us agree that to have experimented with Vin Lawrence and his political colleagues was one of the worst mistakes that the Patterson Government made.” (Observer)
Yet the Paulwell experience shows no improvement. The confusion over who can bid, what the terms are, what parameters are necessary for a successful bid, are not considered by the Minister; clearly he has other criteria. It is unusual since we have a locally qualified bidder, who will employ Jamaicans, use Jamaican money, and have the ability to maintain a schedule, and has or can procure technically qualified persons for management if necessary.
Leaked United States Government cables sent from the US Embassy in Kingston on 19 March 2008 linked Paulwell to a number of scandals. According to one cable, Paulwell “has been behind the scenes of numerous imbroglios”, including the NetServ scandal, the Cement Fiasco, and the Cuban light bulb scandal. The cable goes on to state that “despite all the innuendos, and accusations, Paulwell has never been charged with a crime.(Wikileaks, Wikipedia)
Both Lawrence and Paulwell were appointed by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson during his various administrations. One has to ask is there a common factor in all of this? Then we have to go back and ask the obvious source.