Sun | Jun 16, 2019

Anthony Gambrill | How to go broke in Jamaica

Published:Sunday | October 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The GDP is finally looking up, scamming might be on the wane, and the top two per cent and their children are even reconsidering if they should emigrate to the US, as long as they can afford a new Audi. Thanks to the so-called disruptors, innovation is becoming the order of the day. You can earn your first million before your 21st birthday.

Jamaica, among Third-World countries, has often taken the lead in creative innovation. Years ago, when the police in the UK were applying wheel clamps on cars that had overstayed their parking time, it was said that it was a Jamaican who knew how to unclamp you. He must have made a quick buck or two and retired to the Seychelles Islands, because clamping continues unabated today.

I have contemplated a few possibilities that might crop up sometime soon in Jamaica. You might find them preposterous or down right unlikely. But it's my moral responsibility to set them down in case any appeal to you and to save you going broke.




We have introduced the Global Positioning System service for vehicle drivers in Jamaica. It's easy to see why. While it works in the US and UK, it can be a nightmare to design for our island. No one knows, with the possibility of Peter Espeut, where all our highways, roads, lanes and bridle paths start and end. GPS designers need to know which roads are only for one-way traffic (ignoring the fact that there are those among us who disregard such instructions anyway), which are under repair, which have been restricted by a recent landslide, or those which disgruntled citizens have barricaded.

Be that as it may, I anticipate some ambitious, if misguided, entrepreneur wants to disrupt the Jamaican GPS. My intent is to dissuade some neophyte from selling advertising on said system. Imagine you are approaching Three Miles on Hagley Park Road and need to know how to tackle the complex traffic arrangement when suddenly your screen is filled with an ad for a funeral home or massage parlour? See what I mean. Undoubtedly, the GPS ad company might thrive for a time with its founder contemplating retiring to Rio de Janeiro. Bankruptcy can't be far off when too frequently motorists become disoriented and cause accidents.

On the subject of roads and traffic, don't get into the road-sign business. Anyone who has had to endure the traffic disruption in Barbican Square or along Constant Spring Road finds that the authorities (or whoever is responsible) take great pride in leaving motorists to guess how to proceed. You won't even find signs with platitudes like "Sorry for the inconvenience ... it's for your own good ... just manage the best you can." It's a proud tradition to keep the public in the dark.

The best news we have had lately is that a growing number of young people are becoming more prominent in politics. What this means is that many elderly politicians quite possibly might fade into the proverbial sunset. The warning is, don't get into the mobility business too quickly. The demand by high-profile members of parliament for canes, crutches, zimmers and wheelchairs (which taxpayers will inevitably be paying for) is going to nosedive.

There are those who would like to see Jamaica apply for statehood in the United States if one is guided by the results of the annual poll as to in which country Jamaicans would most like to live. Before anyone begins financing such a campaign, remember, they need to realise that you have to be a colony first, like Puerto Rico. And look how far that's not got them. Nevertheless it won't be long before Jamaica becomes a colony of the China Harbour Company.

My final thought on how to go broke, or at least avoid it, is to get into the newspaper business (which is apparently giving way to digital communication and social media anyway). An unfortunate feature of the news you get in Jamaican newspapers is often the absence of facts that might make a news report complete, leaving you with a sense of uncertainty and dissatisfied.


A Choice of Outcome


Here's the solution: Give the readers a choice of outcome.

For instance, a pastor is shot while preaching in his church. The news piece records most of the details. Or, does it? To give the reader closure, it should end with the killer's motive: (a) Was it a revenge killing? (b) Was the pastor the member of a criminal gang? (c) Was it a case of mistaken identity?

Another example. A top executive is summarily fired from their job. The news report should conclude with a choice of motives: (a) Was their appointment a political reward? (b) Did the person get appointed through the influence of a relative or the board? (c) Or did it involve a sexual favour?

Having made a choice, readers would find the news article almost complete though, of course, no names will have been named. Having chosen (a), (b) or (c), the reader can wait eagerly for the correct answer to eventually be reported in the newspaper. If it ever does.

Investing in a newspaper is risky if simply because most Jamaicans prefer the same-old, same-old uncertainty rather than have the story thoroughly investigated and say whether it was a, b or c.

- Anthony Gambrill is a playwright. Email feedback to