Editorial | Secrecy clause discomfits Dr Clarke
It is good that Jamaicans now know that the finance minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, was “instinctively uncomfortable’’ that the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) could not disclose how much it is paying De La Rue for printing Jamaica’s new currency notes because of the secrecy clause in the contract.
That point might have been made earlier, and with clarity, which would not have left the widespread impression that the minister was covering for the BOJ, rather than merely attempting to explain the fact that that clause existed and the legal constraint its existence imposed on the central bank. Which confidentiality clauses do.
It may be true that printers of banknotes insist on these clauses and that Jamaica feels powerless to buck the trend, for fear of having to accept less competitive deals. However, global firms must know that transparency and public accountability are increasingly the norm, especially when taxpayers’ money is at stake. The fact that this is how it has long been done does not mean it is how it should be and should always remain.
There is greater burden, therefore, on the negotiators of small, poor countries to engage in robust argumentation, rather than timid acquiescence to their assumed fate. Now that the folks at the central bank are aware of Dr Clarke’s recoil when told of the secrecy clause, they may have a different perspective on future contracts – of all types. And other public agencies won’t think that the BOJ-De La Rue model should be the norm.