Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Garth A. Rattray | The road to prosperity

Published:Monday | April 3, 2017 | 4:42 AM

Simply saying that everyone will experience prosperity will not make it happen. A few economic measures like increasing taxes and shuffling them around won't cut it.
Given our status as a developing country, I dare say that the majority of people will not be prosperous. The hallmark of a successful country is its ability to protect and care for the less fortunate who will never be prosperous.
Prosperity can only be facilitated by a governmental system that promotes discipline, education, good public health services, public safety, reduced crime, lessened corruption, self-reliance, friendly banking/
lending institutions, and overall cooperation between all classes and social strata.
The road to national 'prosperity' is similar to road construction. There must be a good and reliable sub-base to withstand the sustained load that the road will have to bear. This sub-base may not be readily in place and, therefore, require excavation (work) to get to suitable, solid material.
The same is true of our society. We had a pretty good sub-base circa Independence in 1962. There were many poor people, but discipline was good, crime and corruption were far less than they are today, people were willing to work hard for a living, there were only a few small get-rich-quick schemes, and we earned more from export than we spent on import. There was the usual inequitable distribution of wealth, but that changed to some extent over time. The sub-base of any society depends heavily on the discipline and motivation of its citizens and less on that countryís natural resources.
The next layer of roads is the base. This is something that always has to be applied and itís made from crushed rock. This may have various thicknesses and components, depending on the expected traffic and environment. Thicker bases are needed for heavy traffic and some bases must allow for very wet or very dry conditions. This layer provides stability and protection from dissipation and water damage. This is analogous to a nation's working infrastructure ñ the different ministries with varied responsibilities that should be working hard for the good of the individuals in our society and be focused on a single goal.
The ëbase layerí of our society has been pervaded by politics and has become subject to political ulterior motives and manipulation. The ministries are often used as tools for political gain.


POLITICAL AGENDA


Policies and programmes are installed and uninstalled, depending on the political agenda of the elected public officials. This often causes a failure to progress as each administration seeks to promote itself to the detriment of its predecessor. As a society, we end up marking time or even regressing because of this.
The ministries should be left to the trained and seasoned public servants, with the politicians seeking from them the best way to improve or direct their performance to enhance efficiency through progressive policies and not just political manoeuvres.
The uppermost layer of any road is the wearing, pavement surface ñ bituminous or concrete or a mixture of both. This provides resistance from weather, cracking or ravelling, moisture and permeability control, protection of the base, and allows for safe and smooth travel.
The equivalent in society is our culture. This is where people interact with and react to one another. Our society has become crass and hostile, competitive and abrasive. Just look at how we treat one another on our roads. People rush to take cell phone pictures of the injured, dying and dead. There is a pervasive aggression and macabre obsession overpowering kindness and gentleness.
Roads should always have proper drainage. This is achieved by the shape or ëfallí of the surface and drainage structures at the sides of the surface. So, too, in our society, we need facilities for rainy days to weather our financial storms. However, we are so strapped for cash that we live from hand to mouth with little or no reserves to mitigate against the bad times.
If we are to have any hope of any modicum of national prosperity, it will take a lot more than just lyrics and taxes. We need to reconstruct our society from its deepest layer of discipline, values and attitudes to the uppermost layer of cooperation and peace.
- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.