Portia’s twist on ‘sacrifice’
I suppose you live and learn.
Until September 20, I thought I knew a thing or five about Jamaica's dysfunctional political system and the grief and destruction it was currently wreaking on the economy and on the society. On September 20, I found out just how wrong I was.
As it turns out, Jamaica has, in fact, accomplished much. How do I know this? Because, that day, speaking at PNP conference, Mama P told me so. She said:
"... With the sacrifices of all Jamaican people, we have accomplished much."
Oh, dear. I'm so sorry for
the delay in acknowledging
and appreciating our political leaders' extreme sacrifice by:
(a) Using taxpayers' money to buy 20 new, relatively tax-free SUVs for ministers.
(b) Travelling worldwide on first-class tickets bought by taxpayers to visit ancestors' countries or wave flags at World Athletic Championships.
(c) "Sacrificing" as the one forced to "shell dung" the London Olympics nightclubs, then lecturing the rest of us on fiscal discipline.
(d) Gambling our tax dollars on games of Crown and Anchor or expensive procurement processes for non-existent power plants.
Without their sacrifice, where'd we be?
Mama P had her own thank-you list:
"Join me in thanking;
The workers, and in
particular the public-sector workers, for their understanding and sacrifice."
"Understanding and sacrifice"? Surely, she jests? Here was I believing news reports that public-sector salaries had been frozen on IMF instructions and GOJ's demands for years despite the CPI (cost of living) having increased from 178.9 in January 2012 to 229 in August 2015 (28% in three years), then forced to accept a paltry 7% increase. Nurses haven't been paid sums owed to them for years. This is not sacrifice. It's hol' dung and tek wey! When services are extracted but no or very little value exchanged, that's not "sacrifice". It's slavery. When will this Government pay reparations to public servants?
"The private sector, trade unions, our churches and members of civil society, who ... have worked with the government to find solutions to problems."
What "solutions" to which "problems"? It's bad enough when politicians deliberately use these sweeping, broad-brush
generalities, but I find it even more deplorable when citizens lap it up, cheering loudly and flag-waving vigorously, without question.
The private sector has
repeatedly condemned this Government for its ravaging of the manufacturing sector; unfair tax-waiver policies; uncaring attitude to small businesses; and extortionate student-loan policies. The only sector apparently willing to swallow Government's feckless stewardship is the banking sector, because they are co-conspirators in a de facto plot to rob us blind with exorbitant transaction fees and inflated spreads in foreign-exchange buying/selling rates and borrowing/lending rates.
"We thank those who invest in Jamaica, creating jobs for our people. We thank the business sector large and small."
Exactly who has been
"investing" in Jamaica? Before Mama spoke, I believed the IMF website that had Jamaica's foreign direct investment falling steadily since 2005 and plummeting since 2011 (latest numbers end 2013). FDI peaked in 2008 at US$1,376,603,000, but, by 2013, had plunged to $665,798,900.
"We thank the farmers who continue to feed our nation."
Well, pass my girdle and call me Pearl! This must be the Guy Lombardo Show! Government has treated farmers like the mother-in-law; exposed farmers to the most vicious drought without so much as a divining rod as protection; no national irrigation plan; no hope of any kind that any solution is in sight. What's she thanking farmers for? All they can do is struggle mightily to survive against all odds knowing they'll get no real help from government.
What else should they do? Run for politics? The last World Bank measurement of agricultural growth was 2.53% in 2012. With 2015's drought, imagine where agriculture is. Feeding who? Not me. I can't afford the sky-high prices for shrivelled-up fruits and limp vegetables in markets.
Next, I learned the true meaning of words "performance, management, leadership". I thought performance was how well or badly something works or is done. More fool me. I learned that "performance" was shuffling journal entries; delaying payment of debts; and hiking taxes all on the instructions of a foreign multilateral financial organisation with the result that "To date, we have passed every test set by the IMF".
Readers, be educated: This isn't following instruction, it's PERFORMANCE. This isn't mismanaging an economy so that it hasn't grown for years. This is MANAGEMENT. This isn't kowtowing to every demand from Washington. This is LEADERSHIP.
Finally, I learned the real meaning of 'achievement', which I thought meant using own effort and skill to do something successfully. Not according to Mama P, who cited the creation of 60,000 JEEP jobs as 'achievement'. Ignoring for the moment that not even JEEP makes such ambitious claims, we know JEEP doesn't create a single job, but only provides very temporary "job work" on a rotating basis, leaving the "workers" poorer than before and waiting interminably to be paid the '"malls" they earned. FACT: Jamaica's youth unemployment is a disgraceful 38% (April 2015), while the national average is 13.2%. FACT: Poverty is up 8% in recent years.
Is this 'achievement'? Mama P says, "I'll be the first to tell you the employment levels aren't yet where we want them to be. One thing is clear, we're moving in the right direction." DWL!
More 'achievements' were listed. Mama P: "Foreign direct investment for 2014 alone was over US$700m. That is performance! That is management! That is leadership!" Oh, dear. Remember, FDI in 2008 was US$1.376 billion? US$700 million is a paltry US$34.2m, or 5%, more than 2013's amount and represents a decline of US$676,603,000, or 49%, below 2008's figure. Congratulations, Mama P. That is NON-PERFORMANCE! That is MISMANAGEMENT! That is LACK OF LEADERSHIP!
Mama P cited recent visits of heads of state as proof "Jamaica's prestigious standing in the world has been restored!"
Yawn. We spent a fortune on President Obama's visit for WHAT in return? Nada, save for a lecture on our abysmal human-rights record, especially as it pertains to LBGT rights. Learn this, Mama P. The world is miles ahead of us on 'gay rights', and, if we don't stop talking, talking, talking about
it; if we don't ignore church leaders who see nothing more important than to hold 'bun ba**yman' rallies even in the face of crippling crime and poverty rates; if we don't start treating ALL humans the same, our dwindling world prestige will disappear.
And it seems news of the Tivoli genocide hasn't yet sunk in. Don't you try to trick us into believing the rash of recent head-of-state visits has anything to do with Jamaican prestige when we know it has everything to do with China's growing regional influence. Prestige? Humbug!
Mama P is in danger of earning a new nickname by lapping up David Cameron's curt dismissal of her timid reparations plea and agreeing to pay 40% of the cost of a new prison to host England's exported crime problem when infrastructure for health and education is sorely needed. Prisons are special cages for the dehumanising of poor black men. If England
didn't need to convince us to take on their criminals, would this be a national-security
priority? Don't get me started. Desmond Dekker had a name for this.
"Why, why, why, Mother Long Tongue
yu belly eva bun yu?
What wrong wid yu so, Mother Long Tongue?
What wrong wid yu so Mother Long Tongue?
What mek yu can't see and blind (here and there)
Ah sey to see and blind (here and there)
As yu get up in de mawning; don't wash yu mouth
Yu jus' licky-licky-licky gal what wrong wid you?"
The list of Mama's 'achievements' sounded more like
• We've signed a US$14.5m contract for the construction of two cancer-treatment centres ... ." (When? At what final cost?)
• We're investing $750m to create a health emergency and trauma response system along the highway corridor from Negril to Ocho Rios (When? I'm still waiting on the Luana Oil Refinery Project.).
• Two and a half-billion dollars will be spent to improve health infrastructure.
• Work to expand the accident and emergency departments at the Linstead and Princess Margaret hospitals will begin soon.
• Eighteen new ambulances will be bought ... (When, when and when?).
• We'll immediately purchase 15 new water trucks for drought mitigation ... . (No sign of them.)
• ... We're making an investment of $300m in water-distribution improvements for areas worst affected by the drought. (When?)
• We'll be investing US$120m in the long term to bring water into Kingston Metropolitan Area. (How 'long' is 'long-term'?)
Mea culpa. God knows why I expected any different. After all, haven't I repeatedly told you PNP stands for Promises, Not Performance?
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to email@example.com.