Fri | Sep 22, 2017

The winds of change

Published:Sunday | December 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Traditionally, we experience the Christmas breeze, a cooling gust that tends to reassure that the season to come can be enjoyed with less stress. The winds of change have begun to blow across the political landscape.

It is generally accepted that political maturity, national interest, and the best interest of the greater majority have not always been at the forefront of our political discourse. Tribalism and coarse intolerance of different opinions have been the order of the day.

No person, group, or circumstance has been successful in bringing about truly revolutionary change in Jamaica. But the signs that foretell change are now emerging.

Civil-society organisations, along with the powerful private-sector lobby groups, have put the national interest ahead of the narrow political party interest. They have been bold and forthright enough to call for consensus on the things that really matter.

In seeking the consensus that fiscal reforms be pursued post-election, they are inducing change. This will require a maturation of our political leaders that has been noticeably absent. However, one must ascribe good intention to the leaders and expect they will keep the national interest at the forefront.

The honeymoon for the party victorious at the next general election poll will be very shortlived if, in forming the Government, it blazes a path inimical to the agenda of fiscal reform. No more feel-good projects while the essentials are ignored. No more stupid policies scrapping hospital user fees and school auxiliary fees.

We must swallow the bravado, the know-it-all attitude, and the ego massage to be found in proving that I know best. We will no longer trust, follow, or obey without question anymore. Jamaica's history is littered with the debris of abysmal economic failures.

The era of experimentation not founded on effective analysis, sound planning, and the requisite implementation must end. The people's needs in education, health, and security must be attended to within the boundaries of sound macroeconomic policy. It will be difficult.

 

A diet of bad education

 

The people have been weaned on dependency by both political parties. The majority have been fed a diet of bad education, exemplified in the warehousing of students with poor facilities and largely incompetent teachers who thrive amid the culture of holding exorbitant extra lessons. IT MUST STOP!

We cannot continue to pursue five years of attendance at a so-called high school for a school leaver's certificate.

We must induce the brightest and the best to be educators. Set high standards and pay them accordingly, and be ruthless in the attrition for failure. We need thinkers, doers, and innovators. Those who acquire a degree in some soft discipline must self-fund. Do it to satisfy your love of the subject matter.

The percentage of UWI graduates who find jobs within 12 months of graduation at last study was 71 per cent. It is falling dramatically. Why? When you acquire a degree that has very little job-market value, no one will readily want your services. This is the age of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These graduates are employable and are employed. God help those who graduate in history, literature, etc. Society caters for its needs, not romantic illusions.

 

Public-private partnership vital

 

Both political parties have indicated that they are ready and willing to accede to the request of the civil-society groups. The public-private partnership that is now happening in many areas is vital. We are all in the same boat. Either we row in unison, or we drown in isolation.

Yes, we are not capable, as a country, of being on the cruise lines. We need a competent person of capacity, integrity, and fortitude to navigate. Who meets those criteria? As a country, we have to choose from those so sanctioned to be elected. The good thing is, competence can be bought.

What the elected must bring is the integrity to lead and the willingness to accept their deficiencies. All public servants, politicians, and those paid from the Consolidated Fund must provide some periodic financial information. Why is this not public knowledge?

The USA, which we seek to emulate, has this information publicly available. People who enrich themselves, while at the public trough, are usually punished. Mr Ted Stevens, former senator from Alaska, is one such person. Some are ready to embrace fixed election dates but not the integrity rules.

A word to the civil-society coalition and private-sector lobby groups: You have the power, the ability, and now, thankfully, the will to speak truth to power. Use it! If you fail the country, you are likely to usher in a period all of us would rather not endure. You have the gravitas, the skin in the game, and the desire to prosper.

The political parties have very little to distinguish themselves. That is why large segments of the electorate will not sully their fingers in ink. You should continue to speak, but please inform the people. It is not enough for William Mahfood and Edward Seaga to have dialogue with individuals in both major parties without telling us of their responses. Why should we repose confidence if we do not know what we are buying?

Are medical professionals in the public-health sector now ready to make way for new graduates?

The winds of change are beginning to blow. Thank God!

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.