Andrew Holness’ Mansion: A Study In Wealth-Shaming

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When did it become a thing of shame to be wealthy in Jamaica? It is quite possible that in the government’s austerity campaign I missed this new phenomenon, but clearly such a thing exists. Wealth shaming must be the new order of the day. Why else would there be “concerns” and “observations”surrounding the house being constructed in Beverly Hills by Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness?
I admit myself genuinely puzzled that Mr. Holness is being made to give account for the grandeur of his family home. Those who lead this farcical crusade of accountability argue that in a democracy, the private expenditure of a former Prime Minister and sitting Opposition Leader is fair game. I’m not at all convinced by this; chiefly because I believe the argument is a smokescreen designed to achieve sinister political motives.
Make no mistake, by raising this issue, Holness detractors are hoping to cement in the minds of the majority of the Jamaican people the idea that he is not one of them. His wealth creates a distinct “otherness” which makes him somehow unfit for the Office of Prime Minister. The very suggestion should be offensive to all Jamaicans striving towards success and wealth. It is the lowest point in the long running saga of Jamaica’s divisive politics of class and poverty. It is necessary to confront and dispel the idea which suggests to the electorate that growing up or living in poverty is a prerequisite for political representation. Political narratives centered around this kind of thinking are ultimately more destructive than they are helpful to our political culture. How will we hope to attract successful Jamaicans to the political process if we continue to make wealth a thing of guilt and shame?
In the grand scheme of real estate development, is the cost (some $200,000,000) really that expensive? When one considers the location, the current land prices in Jamaica and the other incidents of home construction/renovation, have Mr. and Mrs. Holness really offended any principled position? I take no position on the attendant costs of constructing a house in that area, and whether they legitimately amount to $200,000,000, but I believe it may be helpful to the discussion, since we are intent on having the discussion, if some context were brought to it all. Otherwise, we leave it wide open to the snide asides and the petty political posturing we are currently witnessing.
To be sure, I can appreciate a constructive conversation around campaign finance reform and parliamentarians making financial declarations of wealth and assets. That certainly is desirable in a robust process to ensure transparency and accountability. But the ongoing fascination with Holness’ house is not that conversation, it is but another attempt to undermine Andrew Holness as a credible candidate for the Office of Prime Minister. Those of us who believe in celebrating rather than shaming individual success must reject this, and challenge those who would seek to establish this new order in our political narrative.
It’s true that public officials are inevitably subject to scrutiny, I do not dispute that. However, we must satisfy ourselves that in subjecting our elected representatives to the probing lens of accountability, we are reasonable. We must also ensure that we are sensitive to issues related to private family life; at the very least that should be off limits as far as is practical. What exactly is the message we send to the young Holness boys about their parents success when we subject it to such searching and sinister review? I can only imagine a child would conclude that there is something negative about acquiring and displaying wealth in Jamaica.
That shouldn’t ever be a message we want to send.
  • ackee

    For me it has nothing to do with his house. It has everything to do with the funding of it. Jamaica since Mr Holeness left St Jago High School has not been an economic power house and ways of making money have been few and far in between; unless you got in and out of Olint and Cash Plus early. So where did so much funding come from? I am a private citizen. If I got up and built such a house given my tax returns, MOCA and the Collector of Taxes would also be interested in me.

    • Samantha

      You have no authority to speak as something as simple and pervasive in knowledge such as his high school, you are not aware of. Andrew Holness attended St. Catherine High School not St. Jago High School.

      Secondly MOCA and other authorities are not interested in his funds as he declares his assets to the government, that he is not currently leading, every year as is recqiured, and they are satisfied. So I’m baffled as to why people are still allowing themselves to be strung along by people who hate Holness and want to tear him down. Stop follow bad mind people and get the facts for yourself.

  • Richard Crawford

    Sad. How much were you paid to write such a non-sensical article? Where were you born? Where have you been? Is this your first trip to Jamaica? Then you insult us with this rubbish.

    • Andre

      What about the article is non-nonsensical Richard Crawford? This is your style when you object to something you call it rubbish? This is sad for a man who use to tutor me, I expect better, but please tell us why it is rubbish cause I see nothing wrong with the article

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