Sun | Aug 20, 2017

A pitch for patriotism

Published:Saturday | June 6, 2015 | 6:00 AMDayton Campbell
Campbell: Should we pay high salaries and default on the IMF payment?

It is very easy to tarnish political representatives' character without reason, but I will be the first to say there are some of us in politics for an outcome rather than an income. It has also become clear that speaking the truth is rapidly being equated with being controversial. I have no intention of compromising the truth to evade controversy, nor am I prepared to adopt what is popular instead of what is right.

Throughout my constituency, St Ann North Western, I see regular Jamaicans who are fighting to move from poverty to prosperity. My own story of being the offspring of a domestic helper and a farmer who was incarcerated for many years makes me sensitive to their struggles and affords me the opportunity to relate to them. The outcome I am pursuing, therefore, is to give others the same opportunity that I received.

If we want to give every child the hope of elevating from poverty to prosperity, we must continue to work and do the right thing, not necessarily the easy thing. Hope is not some far-fetched idea. I have actualised my dream and I know that success is not about how much money you make, but the difference you make in people's life.

Hence, I have learnt to place a higher premium on the outcome, not the income. Besides, working as a doctor or combining a law degree with medicine would afford me a better income than politics.

 

defining point

 

It was this drive that led me offer free GSAT classes, CSEC classes to hundreds, and more than 2,000 in skill training, irrespective of political affiliation. I also offered more than 4,000 free back-to-school medical checks to all who sought and several community health fairs and health talks in churches or schools since being in politics.

We are at a defining point in our history. This is the moment for those who hunger for equality and thirst for justice. The size of our challenges has outgrown our divisive politics that has held us up for generations. We are confronted with the challenges of creating equality in access to education, universal health care that is accessible and affordable, creating employment opportunities and creating the environment for private sector to thrive and for entrepreneurs unlock their full potential. We are also seeking to curb crime and violence, address the issue of global warming, reduce the cost of energy and adapt to newer technologies. The approaches to these issues will require all hands on deck. The question is, when must the fixing begin? The answer is NOW.

Years from now, when we have made the changes, we should look back with pride and say this was the moment. Jamaica is up against a brand of politics that says it is acceptable to do or say anything to win elections.

 

no solution monopoly

 

But it is increasingly clear that no party has a monopoly on solutions. This will require patriotism from all. Patriotism is supporting your country and being devoted to its development. This means that we recognise the supremacy of law and we submit ourselves to be governed by law.

Many have interpreted patriotism to say they are not PNP or JLP, but Jamaicans first. Well, I am Jamaican. I am not a dual citizen. I am PNP and Jamaican, and I see politics as the vehicle for achieving change.

The issue confronting the two major parties is, therefore, how either can appeal to the majority by focusing on the issues of importance to the country and not those of the political party. Jamaica spends 55 cents out of every dollar to service debt and another 25 cents on wages and salaries, only leaving us with 20 cents for infrastructural development, to run schools and hospitals, and provide national and social security. By reviewing these figures, we see that any increase in one category will impact on the others in a big way. Everyone will be affected - from street cleaners to pensioners.

We must ask ourselves: Should we pay high salaries and default on the IMF payment? If you can honestly say yes to that, we are at a watershed moment.

We should consolidate economic recovery to bring our debt to less than 100 per cent of GDP. That will give us the ability to spend more on social services and raise the quality of living of our public-sector workers and properly compensate them.

There are two ways of reducing a percentage: (1) reduce the numerator, in this case that means cutting spending; or (2) increasing our denominator. Growing our economy must be the choice to better the lives of street cleaners to pensioners.

If our collective goal is growing our economy, we must continue in the struggle. Suffering is hardship for no reason at all. Struggling is enduring hardship, but with success in mind.

If we are to save the next generation, we must continue to be patriotic. The politics must become more about the people and less about politics and politicians. Doing and saying anything to win elections must be a thing of the past. We can only lose if we stop fighting.

A luta continua - the struggle continues.

- Dayton Campbell is a medical doctor and MP for St Ann North West. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.