Editorial | Protest from the east
By withdrawing their services for all of this week, St Thomas taxi operators are demonstrating what can happen when simmering frustration is brought to boiling point. Even in these hard times, the cabbies have decided to shut off their engines and forgo the fares, notwithstanding its effects on their livelihood, to hammer home their point.
This protest has put the issue of poor road surfaces front and centre of many minds because all across Jamaica, thousands of citizens must struggle through and endure the travails of pothole traps. Even though there are spanking new highways that greatly enhance the travelling experience, there are deeply deteriorating road surfaces in many rural communities. Farmers, motorists and commuters, including students, are all grappling daily with the challenges of poor roads.
The problem lies largely in the lack of maintenance of our roads, bridges, water and sewerage systems and other infrastructure. How often have we seen small holes grow into huge craters, endangering the life and property of road users? This is because small maintenance jobs were not undertaken.
Regular resurfacing has to be a part of the national plan, for sadly, road woes are not unique to St Thomas. Citizens all across Jamaica could mount similar protests with justification. We dare say glaring neglect of our roads can be seen in every parish. It is amazing that some members of parliament have managed to convince voters to keep them in their jobs for many years even though their infrastructure continues to crumble.
BIPARTISAN EFFORT NEEDED
Politicians usually give the same response: There is no money. The St Thomas protesters must have heard this over and over. Most certainly, it will need a massive outlay of capital to undertake a complete overhaul of the crumbling road network. Politicians cannot just throw up their hands in the air because they were elected to solve problems, as they promised to do during campaigning. If it requires bipartisan minds coming together, this is what should happen.
Now, the gas tax that politicians so gleefully slap on the motoring public at Budget time would be less painful to the average citizen, if at the end of the day, this was applied to fixing our roads to make our commute more comfortable.
According to the protesting St Thomas taxi men, placing marl over craters is not acceptable, for they know, too well, that this Band-Aid approach will only lead to greater frustration down the road.
The taxi men have vowed to continue their protest into next week. This will have dire consequences for students in St Thomas, some of whom are in the throes of writing their school-leaving examinations.
As we have previously commented in this space, Robert Lightbourne High is not one of the brightest gems in Jamaica's education crown because it has been labelled as a failing school. The news that attendance has dwindled because of the protest action is cause for concern. The interruption in the children's education is something that will likely have a lasting effect on the parish's development and, indeed, all of Jamaica.
The Government has been talking a great deal about growth and prosperity. We submit that there can be neither growth nor prosperity if the Government does not define a clear vision to achieve it. People are impatient, and like the St Thomas taxi men, they want results.