Editorial: Squalor in the aftermath of Obama
We find it hard to mount a credible argument against the cynics. The weight of history and hard evidence are on their side.
So, with Barack Obama having left Jamaica, the crab vendors are back at the roadside across from National Heroes Park, and soon, the cynics expect, will the ramshackle accoutrements - notwithstanding the promise by the local government authorities of new, sanitary stalls. They believe, too, that recently planted flowers at the Harbour View roundabout, en route into Kingston from the Norman Manley Airport, will soon wilt and die for want of care; that whitewashed and clipped verges, which the US president never saw, will quickly turn grubby; that roads repaved, or patched for presidential motorcades will again be potholed and strewn with garbage, with no one seeming either to notice or care.
If we, too, were cynical, we might suggest that after Jamaicans have caught their collective breath, Mr Obama be invited for a longer stay, but this time to visit other areas of the capital and elsewhere. Or, we might propose that US presidential visits become biennial affairs, sufficiently infrequent so as not to lose their appeal, and that they be made a requirement of America's constitution.
The reality is that keeping Jamaica's capital, or the rest of the country, clean doesn't require this kind of facetious fantasy, or the huge sums of money, as those who are tasked with the job claim is required and say they do not get. Rather, it turns on four basic conditions, the first of which is a clear appreciation of the value to communities, and the society at large, of doing the little things and getting them right. They underestimate, maybe, its worth in building self-esteem and strengthening values.
The administration appears so overwhelmed with Jamaica's macroeconomic problems to be baffled by, and lacks the energy for, things like cleaning drains and gullies, maintaining verges and managing the public dump. This inability - we refrain from claiming worse - manifests itself in the ineptitude with which the Riverton City dump was overseen and the peeve with which the local government minister greeted the board's firing of the executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority and his party colleague, the hapless Jennifer Edwards.
Like with anything else in government, those who manage infrastructure that is critical to public health should be transparent. It is widely perceived that such public works, much of which is labour intensive and done with minimum-wage workers, is a significant route to public corruption; therefore, delivering little value for money. In that regard, the authorities should disclose the cost of the sprucing up for President Obama.
The efficient management of projects must be among the considerations in maintaining the physical environment for its aesthetic value and to ensure public and social health. It can't require 20 people, as recently was the case, to weed the flower beds and clear the weeds at the triangular area that forms the intersection between Tom Redcam Avenue and South Camp Road.
Finally, those in authority must abhor squalor, should believe all Jamaicans deserve a decent environment, and possess the will to enforce the rules. It undermines the legitimacy when the pitiful stalls of crab vendors are demolished while the ramshackle of Half-Way Tree is tolerated.