Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Is Jamaica really a nation?

Published:Sunday | November 29, 2015 | 11:00 AMErrol Hewitt, Contributor

"Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbour and says, "I am only joking!"Proverbs 26:18-19

Anyone with a working knowledge of the Jamaican people would inevitably come to the realisation that here is a people with the potential to achieve great things and to make significant contributions to this country and the world.

Where this potential has been unrestrained and encouraged, many of our people have already made their mark in the world. Much of this, of course, is in the more developed world, where identified abilities are in general encouraged to realise their full potential in maximising production, productivity, and profitability.

Yet in our own country, only the surface of this vast potential has been touched so much still lies wastefully undisturbed, shamefully unsought, and frustratingly discouraged.

But why is this? Why is it that despite the inherent potential of our people and the promises of our own born and bred politicians, our country is now at a point where its future is dubious? In truth, much of it seems restricted by the progressively embedded culture of selfishness and mediocrity together with our rapidly diminishing natural resources both physical, e.g. bauxite and human. Alarm has already been expressed about the negative character of so many in the emerging generation.

A continuing failing economy has not only spurred yet another wave of migration of some of our brightest and best, but much of it points the accusing finger to an undeniable less-than-serious continuum of political leaders from both parties. Both major parties seem focused on propagandists who can win seats in Parliament - but are limited in usefulness once inside - yet seemingly most effective in their own selfish intent.

Surely the recently displayed horrendous frivolousness of grown adults, leaders in the governance of the country from the Senate, must exasperate all serious and patriotic Jamaicans. A silly game in a strategy to offer an impractical (for now) alternative while frustrating yet another step towards decolonising ourselves.

 

old politics

Our two major political parties no longer embrace different policies, yet they are so indifferent to the people's interest that they refuse to unite around central issues, preferring instead the cantankerousness of the old politics, which makes Andrew and Andre as steeped in the old politics as Pearnel and Phillip.

Is this all a game benefiting the politicians and limiting the God-given potential of us citizens?

"Round and round the mulberry bush,

The monkey chased the weasel,

The monkey thought it was all in fun but

Pop went the weasel"

Leadership

 

measure of balance

The purpose of the presence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is to facilitate us bringing some measure of balance and manageability between the nation's debts and its income. It is not the cure, but it lays a partial foundation from which to effect real social and economic development.

We have been told so often that the salaries of the public sector are much too high a percentage of national income. This drastically limits our ability to properly maintain essentials such as education, health, and the physical infrastructure, in addition to inhibiting the launching of capital projects and programmes to engender that needed social and economic development.

A reduction of the public sector, as I have said before in these pages, would be self-destructive, as public consumption would immediately be drastically reduced to the detriment of our distributive and the remnants of our manufacturing sector.

Irrespective of the political leadership after the anticipated election, a positive way must be found to restructure our administration. This is unavoidable if a realistic future is to be secured for our people. And obviously, such reforms have to be undergirded by:-

- Social progress in meeting the basic needs of our people and the conditions for the realisation of their full potential e.g. housing with its ripple effects; and

- Economic growth to realise the full potential of our nation's inherent ability to commercially exploit the width and the depth of our country's God-given resources.

The ministries could be effectively joined seamlessly by information and communications technology (ICT) and, thereby, facilitate the reduction of ministries and staffing. This latter could mean retraining for real vacancies in the wider public sector such as in nursing, the police, and in other areas requiring technical expertise, e.g., criminal or computer forensics, health technology, etc.

Such essential changes will not take place without sober political leadership, which is seriously committed towards socio-economic progress. There does not seem to be any sign of this from any of the political parties. Instead, there is just the game politicians play:

Up and down the City road,

In and out the Eagle,

That's the way the money goes,

Pop! goes the weasel.

 

The Crux of the Matter

There has to be economic growth to both make our debts and necessary staffing more manageable and to afford the positive projects and programmes we so desperately need to get ourselves out of the economic hole into which we have dug ourselves. Planning is, therefore, a serious requirement, but the entry of the International Monetary Fund seems to have meant the demise of the 2030 Plan, which is just as well as it had no legs on the ground, i.e. no datelines within which the public could measure progress and - irrespective of party - hold the Parliament responsible. But a workable plan must be devised to guide the way forward and inspire the people to rise to the full measure of their potential. The political games must end.

A penny for a spool of thread

A penny for a needle

That's the way the money goes

Pop! goes the weasel

 

Squatters and a 'Jacket'?

The necessity for competent serious political leadership is at crisis proportions, and that requirement spans the widest range of policy and practice.

Squatting is a scourge in our country and is said to involve one million persons (one in every three Jamaicans) to which both major political parties have genuflected almost worshipfully because both parties see in its unmolested permanence the concentration of a considerable number of votes for political survival and continuance at the polls. Squatters, in taking away the legitimate property of others, are now a law on to themselves aided and abetted by the 'Gangs of Gordon House,' their motto being 'Heads, I win; Tails, You Lose."

Land in the Papine area is scarce and expensive, and with the intensifying insistence for a proper health service, the University Hospital, our only training hospital, must now be given its legitimate opportunity to fully meet present and future needs.

The member of Parliament, Andre Hylton, however, seems determined to secure his political future by upgrading the housing of the present squatters at the hospital's lands - lands intended for an accident and emergency centre for the nation and the region.

But squatting is not the only ill that must be cured. Equally important is the exploitation of entities by others without the commensurate responsibility - even where such exploitation may be legally (even if immorally) supported.

Health was one of the first foci of the University of the West Indies (UWI), and the hospital was a seamless part of that interest. Yet the UWI seems as distant from any paternal (or even fraternal) responsibility for the University Hospital as Australia is from Alaska. This matter has to be properly sorted out, and if its Jamaica's sole responsibility, then it should be unambiguously dedicated to our needs. Yet these are the games people play many from the permanence of their own residence abroad:

Half a pound of tuppenny rice

Half a pound of treacle(molasses)

Mix it up and make it nice

Pop! goes the weasel.

- Errol Hewitt is an information and communication technology planning consultant. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and estahewitt@yahoo.com.