Jamaica’s Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke is turning out to be quite the political bruiser, albeit in a well-fitted business suit.
Last week he took down Minister of Commerce and Industry, Senator Aubyn Hill, making it patently clear that before making pronouncements on granting 50-year tax break to investors looking to do business in the Caymanas Special Economic Zone, he would be advised to read and abide by the SEZ Act.
This week, Clarke mauled Shadow Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Lisa Hanna on a debate on banking fees.
Hanna stridently proclaimed that the fees were too high and the burden was unfairly placed on Jamaican citizens.
“Capitalism without competition leads to exploitation,” she declared in Parliament.
She’s right there but she had her numbers totally wrong and displayed a lack of understanding of financial reporting unbecoming of a leading politician who has aspirations to become prime minister one day.
There are those who say that her columns in the Jamaica Observer are ‘ghost written’ and those voices will become louder.
If you are going up against the Minister of Finance and one that is as particularly astute and data-driven as Nigel Clarke, you better have your facts right and know what you are talking about.
Furthermore, don’t continue to argue a position that you cannot substantiate.
Hanna was mistaken and confused net income of the local arm with the consolidated statement of the NCB Financial Group here. She did not name the bank, but Clarke immediately knew she was referring to NCB.
If NCB Jamaica reported net income in excess of J$70 billion in the time frame Hanna said, Michael Lee Chin’s hairline would grow back and he would be going around with a grin wider than the Rio Cobre.
Hanna was mistakenly focused on the consolidated gross income of NCB Financial Group and not NCB Jamaica’s net income.
There’s considerable egg to be wiped off that good-looking face and she will have to clean off her shoes as well ,where it also fell onto in a deluge.
One is reminded of former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Denis Healey’s quip about Conservative frontbencher Sir Geoffrey Howe, taking him on in the House of Commons – “Like being savaged by dead sheep.”
Nigel Clarke knows how to twist the knife and he did so with Hanna. He made mention that perhaps someone was sending her erroneous information via WhatsApp.
Hanna as we all know is an avid user of social media where creditability is always called into question.
It played into the narrative, “pretty bade, but not ready yet for the big time”, which is unfortunate because she continues to grow as a political and parliamentary force and argues her case rather well.
She will have to continue to battle perceptions and misconceptions. Clarke used his stage adroitly and put his adversary to the sword. She will have to have her thinking cap on next time she goes up against him.
The Minister of Finance managed to put on a show before all of Jamaica, indeed the world, exhibiting the gulf in class. Hanna must now leave the matter alone, lick her wounds and go gently into the night. She got mauled, of that, there can be no doubt.
Lisa Hanna should have done a better job of backing up Fitz Jackson and pressing a clear and concise response to the question, “Is it the case that Jamaica’s banking operations will collapse without the fees being charged against depositors’ accounts?”
Jackson had a choke hold and was in the kill zone. Back up would have served to bring down the prey.
No one has seized upon the Minister of Finance’s assertion that banks must be allowed to prosper because they incur expenses due to high levels of criminality and a need to put in place cybersecurity measures which are costly. Furthermore, given the environment, they must be allowed to generate dividends for shareholders.
It is said that the secret of genius is intuitive improvisation.
Clarke is known to be verbose and prone to obfuscation. Many accede to his intellect and give up on pressing him to make himself clear. The assumption is if “he sounds intelligent and educated, he must know what he is talking about.”
The banking spreads in Jamaica must be one of the highest in the world and border on usury .
Banks charge two per cent on deposits and around 17 per cent on loans. Jamaican banking is a money-making machine for little call at all for enterprise. It must be the profession to go into if one aspires to the high life with minimal effort. You simply sit back and make a truckload of money on fees and spreads.
This goes some way in explaining why despite the COVID pandemic, Jamaican banks continued to report super profits.
Lisa Hanna should have tag-teamed with Fitz Jackson rather than go down the rabbit hole of gender wars and misogyny.
Nowadays, if you hold your ground or go toe to toe with a woman, be prepared for misogyny to come up. That’s why a lot of guys just play it safe by keeping their counsel and not taking women on. In this ‘cancel culture’ age, it’s probably a prudent approach, certainly better for self-preservation.
“I’m standing on my feet because the minister tends to be misogynistic sometimes with his utterances,” Hanna announced.
Ouch! That must have irked Nigel Clarke, but he didn’t appear to take the bait.
It was a case of must-see parliamentary jousting, with Clarke knocking Hanna off her horse leaving her to fall unceremoniously to the ground.