Tue | Sep 17, 2019

Jaristotle's Jottings | Slash and burn

Published:Thursday | August 22, 2019 | 12:15 AM

The closing arguments in my last article surrounded a view espoused by the late emperor, Haile Selassie, that evil men triumphed because those with the power to stop them did nothing. I am happy to see that over the last week, at least two business leaders have been speaking out on the change of course, that, not just the government, but politicians in general, need to take.

Howard Mitchell, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), alluded to plans seeking to usher in a new style of politics, that will require PSOJ members to ‘examine the background, the context in which the political parties operate, and the conduct of political representatives, before making any donations to their campaigns’.

Jeffrey Hall, CEO of Jamaica Producers, has also spoken to the issue of ‘policymakers treating agriculture as a poverty-alleviation measure’ [characterised by slash and burn techniques] ‘rather than as a sound business enterprise, given that the country will continue to suffer if this is not done’.

Conditional donations

The thing that always matters to the politicians is money, whether for their ‘campaigns’ or otherwise, and it is not to the ‘bruk-pocket hungry belly’ voters that they go a-begging. It is to the captains of industry that they turn, to members of the PSOJ and similar representative groups. They also lean very heavily on drug traffickers, money launderers and other lowlifes with their blood money to spare. To politicians, money matters, not the source.

The thing is, no one donates to political campaigns out of the goodness of their hearts. Donors are looking for something in return, and playing both sides of the political divide improves their chances for favourable returns. Slash and burn corporate farming.

Mr Mitchell, I support your plans, but I dare say this is going to mash up people dolly house. Many of your members are only interested in self, not the collective good, and like uneducated farmers, they will retain their slash and burn practices.

Until there is transparency on the issue of donations to political parties, donors will continue to hide behind the veil of non-disclosure in pursuit of self-interests, and candidates will be able to pocket the donations, with mum being the word.

A question of competence

Mr Hall’s comments were quite timely, coming against the tragedy of a massive bush fire in Flagaman, St Elizabeth, which destroyed hundreds of acres of crops and farmland. It is believed that the fire started as a result of land clearing utilising slash and burn methods. Wrong method, using fire in dry times and high winds: incompetent people operating on their own are disasters waiting to happen.

To quote Mr Hall further, “[farming] is a business and we believe that there are opportunities in bringing people who are studying at [the] tertiary level into our institution to have a conversation around avant garde level of quality control; how to engage commercially; or how to run a business effectively.” In other words, we need competent people!

It is full time that we moved away from the slash and burn philosophy in farming and in politics. However, it is not that easy a task.

As Howard Mitchell alluded in another forum, the challenge with new entrants to the workforce is to find ‘thinkers and doers who can adapt to circumstances, find knowledge on their own, and use data and information to create value, rather than more learning by rote, inflexible graduates’.

If our education system is unable to deliver competent young people into the workforce, people with the right attitudes who are willing to work and find solutions to problems rather than be problems to solutions, then slash and burn will be our permanent paradigm.

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