Wed | Sep 18, 2019

Ronald Thwaites | Changing toxic politics

Published:Monday | January 21, 2019 | 12:00 AM

No, Mr Holness, we have not been doing "everything correctly" and yet achieving only the marasmic growth that you correctly bemoan in your remarks at Essex Valley last week. No again, and not by a long shot either!

The two per cent threshold you slyly infer as the revised take-off point for the economy now that 'five-in-four' has been shamefully abandoned, will never be enough to bring about even a semi-decent standard of living for the majority of your constituents or mine.

You, and most of us, continue to happily conflate some fragile and mildly positive macroeconomic indicators to amount to general betterment. That is just not the reality for most people, and the saddest thing is that most of us in the governing class have grown accustomed to brokering chronic underdevelopment, lopsided, classist enrichment, when so much more could be achieved with the present resources and in our lifetimes.

The truth is that our horizons are too low; and our toxic political culture prevents us from the kind of collaboration that could, relatively easily, produce strikingly better prospects for those who still hope that 'better must come'. Five-in-four, after all, was a relatively modest target. The trouble is that, by default, we have decided not to lay strong enough foundations to achieve this and more. We have done it before. But look now at our unacknowledged embarrassment when the BBC World Service sees fit to title their recent programme in Jamaica, 'Contradictions in Paradise'.

Were crime and corruption to be cut in half and emphasis placed on inclusive growth, our best aspirations would be realised. As we lurch closer to another election cycle, will the kind of common respect and shared commitment required for real progress (same thing as prosperity) be possible?

I watched Peter Phillips, who is as bright and committed a patriot as you want to be, and you in prolonged, sincere and animated conversation at the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast last Thursday. What would be lost and how much would be gained if we were to radically shift the political culture to achieve what neither tribe can bring about on their own - an assault on the causes of crime, not just a supression of its incidents; a war on corruption, starting with our own organisations.

Then we could stop wasting time insulting each other in Gordon House, stop encouraging others to do as much on social media, and with shared wisdom and resolve tackle some of the real devils in our polity - ineffectual education, waste of public resources in an arteriosclerotic public service, not to mention the sinful misuse of more than a trillion dollars of largely poor people's savings by horribly broken financial transmission structures.

 

JOINT EFFORT

 

And there could be so much more. Starting right now, there could be a joint approach, no doubt with different but not destructive cadences, to confront the imperative of radical cultural change: the rebuilding of family life, personal responsibility rather than dependency and entitlement, and the joy of struggle and sacrifice.

No need to go the way of a one-party state or to lock up, exile or traduce opponents. We are too bright for any of that. Start using political, social and economic power and wealth not to hoard influence, but to spread it; not to disable but to enable.

Why not try, this approach - one less selfish than the current practice? Then we would really "grow satisfactorily".

 - Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Kingston Central and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.