Editorial: PJ should revisit his Chavez university idea
THE WAY Jamaican governments often attempt to solve problems is by creating a new institution to replace one that doesn't work. Then you have two institutions that don't work. Then the growth of underperforming institutions is exponential.
That is one of the reasons why we suggest to P.J. Patterson, the former Jamaica prime minister, and whoever else may be minded to pursue his proposal, to have a new, rational and perhaps less tunnelled look at the idea for the establishment in Jamaican of a tertiary institution to honour the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Another is whether it would honour the right person.
This newspaper celebrates the long friendship between Jamaica and Venezuela, that is accorded greater significance by the fact that it was here 200 years ago that the Venezuelan hero, Simon Bolivar, found refuge and wrote what Mr Patterson called his "summons to inspiration to the people of the Americas" - a document that explained the case for Latin American liberation from Spanish colonial rule in the context of democracy. We also recognise the fiscal lifeline that PetroCaribe, established by Mr Chavez to provide oil on a preferential basis to Latin American and Caribbean countries, has been to Jamaica.
We find value, too, in Mr Patterson's call for the advancement of tertiary-level education in areas such as language, sports, culture, tourism, the environment, maritime studies and nursing. The former prime minister proposed that the new institution be financed by Venezuela and the countries that benefit from PetroCaribe.
"Let it stand to Hugo Chavez, who, in his short sojourn on our planet, did indeed make a monumental difference on which this and succeeding generations must build," said Mr Patterson in a speech to leaders of PetroCaribe countries.
We do not presume that Mr Patterson's intent was merely to excite debate on tertiary education in Jamaica, or that he is ignorant of the fact that while more can and should be done in the areas he outlined, they all are already part of the curricula of tertiary-level institutions in Jamaica. Mr Patterson, we expect, would be well aware of the existence of the regional University of the West Indies (UWI) and its Jamaica campuses, as well of the Jamaica government-owned University of Technology and the funding problems faced by these institutions.
In the circumstances, it would, to us, make better sense for any project, such as Mr Patterson suggests, to be part of one of these institutions, preferably the UWI's Mona campus, perhaps fashioned as an institute of Latin America and Caribbean Studies, but many with an over-arching connection with other institutions that provide technical-oriented training, such as the Caribbean Martime Institute.
As for whom such an institution would be named, Mr Patterson would probably wish to reconsider Mr Chavez, who, PetroCaribe notwithstanding, was a polarising figure who narrowed the democratic space in his own country and left the legacy of an economy in crisis and growing worse for want of rational, market-oriented policies. Jamaica would also appear to be deliberately provocative to some of its key partners. It might have been close to Mr Patterson for his recognition, in terms of history and values, that the name on any such marquee should be Simon Bolivar.