Editorial | Community to the boil
One of the most maddening aspects of life in Jamaica has to be the unresponsiveness of public bodies and those in authority to the needs of the average citizen.
Almost daily, representatives of underserved communities can be heard fulminating against inferior and inadequate social services, with garbage disposal delays and poor road maintenance among the main irritants. The fact is that unresponsiveness invites protest. Many citizens feel that unless they block roads and create public chaos, their issues will never be addressed.
Some of these voices are growing increasingly desperate, as we detected in the Letter of the Day published by this newspaper on Tuesday, 'Get rid of brothel in Meadowbrook'. There is much angst in a Meadowbrook community in St Andrew at the lack of response to two burning issues.
According to the letter, citizens have raised concern about a suspected brothel in their residential community. They have been trying to get the matter addressed for more than a year. Letters were written to the Constant Spring Police Station; their councillor, Vernon McLeod; the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation; the commissioner of police; and the minister of national security. However, the matter remains unresolved.
Personal safety concerns
They cited concerns for their personal safety and the likelihood of human trafficking as one of the likely spin-offs from these activities. If, indeed, the suspicions of the residents are correct and the authorities are interested in building wholesome communities, they should move expeditiously to address the situation.
The other problem they raised has persisted for seven years, after flood rains influenced by a 2010 hurricane eroded a section of a nearby gully. They reported that the National Works Agency visited the area, but the matter has not been addressed. The risk of sustaining damage to their homes in the event of extreme weather conditions may have prompted the residents to take their concerns to the media.
In a way, this letter from residents of Meadow Way is amplifying the voices of other communities where there is rot and decay. For example, areas zoned for residential use have been taken over by commercial ventures such as roadside garages, filling stations for cooking gas, and cookshops, ultimately denying residents their inherent right to a peaceful and safe existence.
Given Jamaica's magnitude of debt, we appreciate that the Government cannot ignore economic exigencies and cost options. This opens up the subject of financial management and the expenditure budget process, which involves deciding which projects to fund and where the money can be sourced for new ones, being mindful of current constraints.
Trying to balance demands will obviously produce high levels of frustration among the bureaucracy and the taxpaying public. The challenge for Government is to find ways of responding to people's most urgent needs. To do otherwise is to confirm the well-formed view that Government does not really represent the interest of the majority, but caters to the powerful and special-interest groups. The pushback from this has been seen in the steady erosion of voter turnout in elections and less confidence in the ability of politicians to make their lives better.