Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Towards a more perfect society

Published:Sunday | November 15, 2015 | 11:00 AM

As the country goes into high gear for national parliamentary elections, it is most, appropriate to engage with thoughts as to the things likely to lead to a better country going forward.

Official statistics show that the large majority of Jamaicans are literate. We are to believe that our people function in a world of rational thought, brought about by literacy. An observation would lead to doubts of that. The fact that our culture declares that boys who strive to excel academically are nerds brings those literacy statistics into question. We need to seek methods to increase the literacy rate. In Barbados, the literacy rate is 99.7 per cent and in Cuba 99.8 per cent. We have a prison population of approximately 4,000 persons, the vast majority of whom are male. Let us make, as a condition of the possibility of parole, that the offenders must be literate. The incarcerated persons should have no desire to refuse literacy training. The cost would be comparable to two additional high schools, and the benefits, because of the turnover of the prison population, wide-reaching. This would be a move towards a more perfect society.

The dignity of man is linked to the circumstances of his or her existence. It is dehumanising to be exposed to the elements; deprived of privacy in your abode; relegated to compete at the bottom for your daily existence. Yet, that is the fate of large sections of our society in the 21st century. Reports suggest that one-third of our population are squatters. They can take no pride in their circumstance. Nastiness abounds. Squalor is their daily companion. Communal life is misery. Let us resolve as a country going forward to use our resources to provide housing with benefits: benefits of privacy, stability, protection from the elements, and security of tenure. Use the resources of the National Housing Trust to allow for the improved decency of our people. If you leave me condemned to the dark world of illiteracy and debasement of life through squalid housing, then criminality becomes attractive. A move towards a more perfect society beckons us to action.

 

Opportunity unlocks potential

 

Jamaicans are enterprising. Large numbers of persons are economically filed in the category 'own account'. This means they hustle, engage in small trading, and scam to survive. There are, however, many examples of persons who got a break and have proven successful. Just watch Profile on a Sunday evening. Opportunity is the vehicle to unlock potential. Opportunity comes with a price tag. Why not, through tax policy, encourage initiative?

There will be the rip-offs. There will be the failures, but the potential gains are enormous. Think of 100,000 new businesses created and their multiplier effect in the short and medium term. We do not have as a country a history of significant savings. The pool for venture capital, risk capital if you prefer, must be facilitated by government.

Imagine billions of dollars becoming available by way of tax policy encouragement to a people dreaming of buying a bit of equipment to practise their trade, make and distribute a product, embark on an economic venture. We must take our country as it is - warts, imperfection, attributes, and culture. That is who we are.

The role of government is to serve the greater good in us. Smooth the brutish, hellish, rough edges by enlightened leadership. This would be a move towards a more perfect society.

The dynamic nature of any society must be organised. It is even more noticeable in a country where 53 per cent of the population is under 35 years old. The needs are urgent, and the future will demand greater preparation for us to be successful. Health, education, justice, and housing are all pressing needs. Just think! As much as we are in love with technology, the Internet penetration is estimated to be only about 35 per cent. We have a long way to go in providing access.

The thought process required to guide this young nation towards an acceptable quality of life for the majority is daunting. One of the needs is rejuvenation of leadership. A new election is upon us and the infusion of new, young talent is woefully lacking in those proposed for Parliament. Robots can today replace large sections of the workforce, and some of our parliamentarians were adults in politics when robots were first introduced on a large scale. Robots can clean your home. Robots can do many repetitive manufacturing jobs. Robots make automatic telephone sales calls.

We need term limits for our political class. New thinking for tomorrow. This would be a move towards a more perfect society.

- Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.