Wed | Sep 19, 2018

Horace Levy | Are we serious about transformation?

Published:Tuesday | March 27, 2018 | 12:07 AMHorace Levy

 

I am tired, tired, bored to turn-off by the tit-for-tat talk between the Labour Party and the People's National Party, the "I did this where you didn't", "You failed where I succeeded", the tiresome going back over the last 50 years.

Audley Shaw did it and so did Mark Golding. Peter Phillips did it and so did Andrew Holness. Tones and words and contents may have differed - so did 'facts' - but all are guilty. It spoiled the Budget Debate in Parliament and otherwise good presentations. History is essential, but not plastered green or orange. Leave the task to true historians.

What I want and would like to think most Jamaicans want is issues talk, specific discussion of declared changes in EPOC and the Economic Growth Council, of what is meant by 'social intervention' in ZOSOs, of Mike Henry's railway, of how to keep more of the tourism dollar in Jamaica, of changes in the justice system and needed police reform. The badly chosen and timed naming of the North-South Highway after Edward Seaga and the predictable reaction are more unnecessary partisan waste of political capital.

Notice the centrality of ongoing change in all these matters. Crucially, therefore, there is a need for setting action in a time frame that is made public, that draws the public in and engages it in setting, and even altering, time and pace. In his interview with Dennis Brooks aired yesterday on Nationwide, Andrew says the primary lesson he learned as opposition leader was to listen to, and take in, public opinion. That's great, Mr PM, really great.

But I want to tell you that maybe you have not quite taken in our people's time and pace. As the leader you see yourself to be, you have your plans and your timetable, one that gives you time to study and absorb issues in all their complexity. And you are very deliberate in the execution of your plans. But adjusting these to popular concerns is the issue, and I submit that you have missed, or are very close to missing, the action that our people want at THIS moment.

What they want more than anything else right now, I venture to suggest, is the kind of planned action that strikes at the root of the country's murderous violence. Have you observed, Mr PM, how many are speaking in St Catherine North and elsewhere of the need for social intervention? For an intervention more substantial than what has been done, though laudable, by JSIF in Denham Town and Mt Salem?Among other things, this would mean the involvement of credible social organisations and grass-roots leaders.

That social intervention would have credible civil-society organisations and a strong private-sector assault on community poverty playing substantial roles beyond the ordinary. It would involve them alongside soldiers and police in what would amount to a full-scale national undertaking.

The time, the moment, I am saying, has been ripe for this over the past several months. The demand and the mood have been there, but it is almost gone, it is slipping away as I write.

What could save it is either the summit proposed by the PSOJ's Howard Mitchell or a differently organised Vale Royal encounter. If Vale Royal is to have more meaningful outcome than its predecessors, which I am sure Mr Holness very much wants, it needs to be different. Most crucially, it would need to include the private sector and civil society. Government, in the 21st century, has been superseded by governance. It is the enriching inclusion of the agendas and viewpoints of these two sets of actors on economic and social problems makes for true governance. They are central parts of the nation.

- Horace Levy is a human-rights activist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.