The numbers don’t lie
Those who got away with propaganda and falsehood in elections of yesteryear may very well regard social media and the plethora of information available to the public as a result of advances in technology as the bane of their existence.
Claims regarding job losses between 2007 and 2011 and the creation of 60,000 jobs since 2012 are cases in point. Those claims do not accord with data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica and amount to little more than wild propaganda.
The contents of a Gleaner story titled 'PNP chides Holness on crime assertions' are quite laughable. The story focused attention on claims by the governing People's National Party (PNP) that the opposition leader was irresponsible in expressing concern about the safety and well-being of Jamaicans given the spike in murders.
It is said that the truth may offend, but it is not a sin. One should understand why the PNP is uncomfortable with the opposition leader's comments regarding the crime situation. Apart from failing to grow the economy, managing the nation's crime situation is the PNP's biggest failure. That has traditionally been the case, and for that reason, they would prefer us not talk about it.
With successive national polls showing just how concerned Jamaicans are about their safety, the opposition leader would be shirking his responsibilities by not speaking about the issue and fulfilling the desires of the Government.
INEFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF ECONOMY
There is merit to the argument that the PNP's traditionally ineffective management of the economy and the national security portfolio, in particular, is more likely to embolden criminals, create conditions for delinquent behaviour, and see lives being snuffed out compared to when a JLP government is in office. None of us want to live in a country that is overrun by menacing murderers and high levels of crime.
A growing economy will set the stage for more effective policing. The opposition leader is committing to growing the economy and creating conditions for more effective crime-fighting, as complementing education, parenting and skill-training initiatives will be part of the overall effort.
The removal of mandatory fees in education by the last Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government worked to good effect in tandem with other progressive initiatives such as the Career Advancement Programme to expand access to education, and create incentives for desired levels of enrolment and attendance among school-age children.
When a retrograde step is taken, as the PNP has done, by reintroducing mandatory fees at the secondary level, access to education and attendance are a compromise. Disengaged youngsters are more likely to engage in undesirable activities, not the least of which are participation in the lottery scam or joining a gang.
It is a historical fact that whenever the PNP is in power, murders increase; when the JLP is in power, murders decline. Murders, which stood at 145 when the JLP left office in 1972, quickly jumped to 409 by 1977 and then 889 in 1980. The number of murders recorded in 1981 fell drastically to 490 and 414 in 1988 during the Seaga years.
In the 1990s, under the PNP, murders soared to new heights, jumping to 1,038 in 1997 and peaking at 1,674 in 2005. It is instructive to note that while 1,683 murders were recorded in 2009, tremendous gains were made as murders fell to 1,447 and 1,133 in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
FROM POVERTY TO PROSPERITY
The numbers may make us uncomfortable, but they do not lie. The policies and poor stewardship of successive PNP administrations cannot be divorced from the creation of social and economic conditions that create fertile ground for crime to flourish.
When an economy grows and creates job opportunities, its people are more likely to be meaningfully engaged and contribute positively to the society as opposed to engaging in a life of crime.
Ours must be the mission of moving our people from poverty to prosperity. Focusing attention on the construction of a new prison instead of schools, factories and skill-training centres takes our people no closer to prosperity. It smacks of poor vision and misplaced priorities.
But then again, this is not entirely surprising as this is the same set of people who converted Things Jamaican - a complex that promoted craft development - into the Horizon Adult Correctional Centre.
With a 26 per cent increase in murders since the start of the year, it is evident that the criminals are in the ascendancy. They are becoming more sophisticated and innovative and are moving from the traditional crime hot spots to emerging problem areas like Westmoreland and Hanover. There is every reason to believe that what is lacking at this time are the commensurate levels of sophistication on the part of the police, where information and intelligence-gathering see them hot on the trails of these criminals.
The Government is retarding its own efforts to adequately fund and mobilise the police in light of its failure to grow the economy and generate the revenue necessary to address the shortage of resources to fight crime.
The JLP gains in reducing crime are being fast eroded by this administration. Instead of keeping his finger on the pulse and keeping the momentum when murders fell to 1,005 last year, the national security minister spent more time basking in the numbers and gloating about the reduction.
Apparently, the minister would rather have the spotlight on crime management when it suits him and not have citizens express concern about it when fear for their safety and security is uppermost in their minds.
I am not convinced that the national security minister had any idea as to precisely what caused murders to decline in the way they did last year. Bunting sought to attribute the reduction in murders to smarter policing, legislative developments, and policy direction from the Government.
But if we were to assume that he was correct, we would now be forced to ask the question, What has happened to the policing, legislation and policies this time around, Minister? Are we to presume that the police are no longer smart?
Make no mistake, murders recorded in the first three quarters of 2014 were at worrying levels. It was the last quarter of that year, a period that coincided with the extensive chik-V outbreak, that saw a substantial reduction in murders such that the final tally ended up being what it was.
- Marlon Morgan is deputy opposition spokesman on agriculture and an aide to Opposition Leader Andrew Holness.