Mon | Jun 24, 2019

Mark Wignall | Squeezing out the small man

Published:Thursday | February 28, 2019 | 12:08 AM

It has always been perceived in Jamaica that politics is always in the business of increasing the fortunes of the big man while only pretending that the main focus of government is paving the way for the advancement of those close to the bottom of the economic pile.

Recently, the prime minister has been making pronouncements about more of our smaller savers participating in the stock market, especially in economically viable government entities that are about to be divested.

The good news is that the message, at the very least, is being received and, in other instances, I have heard a few people express interest in investing in the stock market when a few months ago their main vehicle to accumulate funds would have been the pardner or round robin.

After an IPO was oversubscribed in a few hours, I heard a shopkeeper say, “Mi a go tek bout $40,000 and buy some shares.” Then she told me the name of the company/stock and her certain knowledge that the management would bring about growth to her starter investment portfolio.

The idea that government favours the already-rich entrepreneur is one based on reality. Certainly, were I the prime minister, and on a hunt for new investments, I would naturally be more drawn to a big, successful company whose business acumen is emblazoned in billions of dollars than 100 screaming small farmers scratching out a living and failing to find one coherent voice.

A Loop news report recently carried an item about a clash between small farmers on the Dyke Road and those representing property recently acquired from the Government for a new township planned for the Bernard Lodge lands in Portmore. One of the farmers called me and asked, “Is when dem did put the land to public tender? How come di big man just get di land so and we neva get a say in the matter?”

If the report is to be 100 per cent accepted as fact, one of the great ironies arising is that the company providing security for the big company, MegaMart, is headed by none other than retired SSP Reneto Adams, a man seen as heroic in the eyes of many of our poorest people. Adams, of course, fully understands how he is placed in this tense social, economic and even racial crucible. He told me of it a few years ago.

Perfect economic time

If the prime minister is so convinced that the economic time is perfect for many more of our people at street level to up their thinking on new ways to accumulate funds and is pushing them towards the stock market, does he share the view that the small man ought to ‘hol him corners’ there and go no further?

I have long believed that, by whatever names it is called – provident societies or co-operatives – the typical Jamaican small businessman is very averse to many forms of business partnerships and nine times out of 10 will prefer to fail going it alone instead of progressing in a partnership with enhanced capital.

The small farmers crying out for more economic relevance in the country must understand that a sense of unity is what will carry them forward. Until that time, the Government will sell land at private treaty to the big man and allow the courts to deal with the disparate voices of the poor, the powerless and the disunited.

The Government has long made up its mind that scratch farming on the Dyke Road will not take this country proudly into 2030. It’s better to deal with one big fish than 300 ticki ticki swimming all around.

Except on election day.

Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.