Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Mark Ricketts | Politics killing us softly

Published:Sunday | August 26, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness went and spoiled it all by declaring his intention not to ignore politics in governance, and that is killing us as a nation.

Politics has had its run, and it is now time for tough economic choices and strategies if 2030 is to have the kind of relevance envisaged by businessman Johnny Gourzong, Ambassador Audrey Marks, and many other Jamaicans.

Montego Bay businessman Gourzong was excited on hearing that he was going to be one of the recipients of a national award, the Order of Distinction, for his work in entertainment and tourism. A co-founder of 'the world's greatest reggae festival', Reggae Sumfest, and chairman of the River Rafting Authority, he operates the Martha Brae River Rafting attraction.

Interestingly enough, as far back as the 1980s, he conceived of the Association of Jamaica Attractions to try to woo visitors and locals alike to a potpourri of events, offerings, and activities. This was an important element in Jamaica's tourism development, as the country has always struggled in capturing a larger share of vacationers' ancillary spending.

Gourzong told The Gleaner he was optimistic that the country was on a trajectory to realising its dreams of becoming a First-World Nation in fulfilment of Vision 2030, the national plan for sustainable development.

A similar sentiment about First-World status has been expressed by Ambassador Audrey Marks, who told a diaspora gathering in Maryland, USA, that everything is being done to put Jamaica in a position to achieve developed-country status by 2030.

Marks' optimism is consistent with her business achievements, having founded Paymaster, and her strong adherence to one of her favourite quotes, "The journey of life is not about where you start, it's the path you choose to take and how you end your journey." A former student of mine at the University of Technology, formerly the College of Arts, Science and Technology, she was enthralled by microeconomics, business, innovation, finance, and assured herself of success by virtue of her discipline and her thinking outside the box.

The ambassador's themes and Gourzong's emphasis on business, staying the course, and finding ways to help drive growth in tourism, should be our focus. Please, no more politics for now. My plea, however, will gain limited traction in a society where we emphasise politics as the lifeline of development.

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Holness, speaking at a party rally in St Ann to announce Minister of Education Ruel Reid as the caretaker for St Ann North Western, told his audience that his Government will not neglect the important role politics plays in governance.

"We don't just start with better policies; policies have to be grounded in politics. Politics really means what you, the people, decide." He added, "Whatever the JLP is doing, we are not going to forget the politics, we are going to be out there in the field."

 

POLITICS AND TRIBALISM

 

Mr Prime Minister, halfway through your term, politics has dominated so many areas: consultants and advisers, even in normally non-political posts; Petrojam, which should have been a model success story; and the used-car fiasco involving a $213-million advance. Please let management, economics, technology, education, and transformational leadership govern the second half of your term.

It is about time politics and tribalism, expressed in the phrase, "Is he or she one of us?", take a back seat to competence and objectivity. Let patronage be bypassed by productivity and performance.

Instead of spending time explaining that your devaluation is not as bad as the other guys', you and your ministers should have excited the gathering and the country with nation-building ideas.

I would love the Government to stop offering or condoning patronage-appeasing solutions, such as squatting, without abridging rights; stop making personalised appeal for people to do better (without behaviour-modifying legislation); and to stop issuing threats to those presumably doing wrong without having in place rules, regulations, personnel and systems to ensure compliance.

 

CONCRETE PLAN

 

Threats to the praedial larcenists to stop targeting farmers will be to no avail unless there is a concrete plan, an institutional change, adequate security personnel, and a better tracking system.

Or what of the boast when we say education is free, we mean it is free. That is such a silly phrase because good education can't be free. In fact, it is very expensive.

With at least two and a half years remaining until elections, I would like to hear the prime minister and his Cabinet articulate clear policies, strategic plans, a realistic timetable, and parish-specific programmes as to how we are going to offset capital and infrastructural deficits to deal with the vexing and illegal action of squatting.

At present, our visible exports of just over US$1 billion are dwarfed by our visible imports of more than US$5 billion, leaving a whopping trade deficit of $4 billion. Couldn't we be treated with informed analysis how we intend to correct this imbalance?

And what of crime, lawlessness, and social services, and modernisation of the police force along with much better pay for the rank and file? Isn't this more an economic and management decision which the country could understand and appreciate?

Mr Prime Minister, the most urgent task of development is the difficult process of effective leadership and efficient management.

- Mark Ricketts is an economist, author and lecturer. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and rckttsmrk@yahoo.com.