Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Jamaicans need motivation

Published:Monday | April 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM

There was a very important lesson to be learnt from the visit of President Barack Obama. His need for a security bubble and our need to welcome, honour and impress him proved that Jamaica is capable of a lot more than we are currently achieving.

Many concerned and frustrated citizens have opined that in order for Jamaica to achieve the growth and greatness that it is capable of, we need a dictatorship or a socialist/communist government to reduce crime and corruption and encourage hard work. They have used Cuba and, more recently, Singapore as perfect examples. I don't subscribe to such beliefs but I see where they were coming from.

What Jamaicans need is motivation. And, we need an administration that is concerned enough about the country (above all else) and brave enough to do what must be done.

Our hostile social systems do not inspire our citizens to work hard to achieve their goals or secure their future. The spending power of our local currency has declined significantly because of the cost of foreign exchange, the ridiculous disparity between the inflation rate and what we earn, and because of the low interest on all savings accounts.

The low interest rates on savings accounts (far lower than the inflation rate), the tax on interest, the plethora of bank charges and the wide spread between the interest earned on savings and the interest on loans all put the brakes on business and personal development and on efforts to save effectively.

The vast majority of our citizens feel defeated before they even begin to dare to dream of a comfortable financial future. Home and car loans commit many of the middle class to being ostensibly employed to (earn for) the bank. The new and compounded, exponentially increasing oppressive taxes on business have no end in sight. The negative trickle-down effect on the employees and on the viability of our country is devastating.

 

Things going down

 

Salaries remain frozen, minimally increased or even reduced. I know that some desperate people are forced to work 40 or more hours per week but must accept salaries commensurate with a 20-hour workweek.

The prevailing psychology is one of a country in decline. The bleed-over effect of such defeatist thinking leads to apathy, despondency and criminality. People revert to the 'try-a-thing' and 'eat-a-food' mentality. Under such circumstances, anything goes, as long as you can get away with it. The administration must find ways to ameliorate the economic hardships. Simply putting the tax squeeze on the middle class will never enable or encourage growth.

Mr Obama's security bubble proved that the authorities can impose order by simply enforcing existing legislation. Too many sidewalk vending and other flagrant road and community-related violations are allowed to flourish uninhibited, unregistered and unregulated until a crisis appears. Then, the authorities move with a heavy hand but only for a while. Once that particular campaign grows boring and stale, things go back to 'normal'.

No country can grow without discipline. Discipline cannot survive without good governance. And, good governance cannot exist without leaders who are willing to sacrifice popularity and votes in order to do the right things for the future of our country.

 

Lack of discipline

 

I've seen Jamaicans stay home because of a little rain but, when they migrate to developed countries, they risk life and limb to get to work on time in the worst of snow- or rainstorms. Jamaicans who ignore traffic rules here take care not to violate traffic laws in developed countries. The difference is that such countries have far more order and discipline. The ultimate difference is that citizens can achieve their life's goal there. The only difference is motivation.

Our negative traits - our legendary indiscipline/inefficiency, our inability to obey the law, our criminality/corruption, our sloth and our entangling and exasperating bureaucratic red tape - were all pushed aside by the 'bubble'. We should periodically employ the 'bubble effect' across Jamaica; it would motivate all sectors of society to strive for excellence.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.