LETTER TO THE EDITOR | A matter of time
The Editor, Sir:
Every week, without fail, your reporter Jovan Johnson tweets a picture of an empty House of Representatives at 2 p.m., the time scheduled for the house to convene, where the members, people who are there because of our votes, are supposed to be managing the affairs of the nation and making representation on our behalf.
On Tuesday, the prime minister began his address at 3:15 p.m. Proceedings should have been under way at 2 p.m.
Students are expected to be at school on time. In some schools, habitual tardiness jeopardises participation in graduation exercises at the end of grade 11.
Workers are expected to be at work on time. Punctuality is one of the key performance indicators graded on annual performance reviews, and habitual tardiness is punishable by termination. Someone invited to attend a job interview or an audition turns up on time for good reason. Turn up late for a scheduled departure of a flight or train and risk being left behind.
So, why do our parliamentary representatives consistently turn up late to the weekly session where they collaborate and represent on our behalf? A worker who is late to his post can potentially cause lost service/production time, and therefore lost revenue. A student who is late is at risk of missing important instruction, com-promising the quality of learning. An employee who is late to a meeting with her boss displays disregard for her boss' time and can correctly be judged as rude and disrespectful.
Attitudes towards punctuality run along clear lines when one looks at the more progressive, successful nations of the world versus those with developing nation status.
According to professor Erin Meyer, every country in the world can be placed on a spectrum when it comes to scheduling. Have you ever had to use public transportation in Britain or in Germany? I once had to catch a train in Britain with a scheduled departure of 5:54 a.m. I boarded the train at 5:50 a.m. and at 5:54 a.m.the train was pulling out of the station. Had I arrived at the platform at 5:54 a.m. I would have missed my train. In those countries which adopt a linear approach towards time, where schedules and deadlines and organisation are valued and expected, you can probably schedule your entire year on the assumption that your environment is not likely to interfere greatly with your plans.
LATENESS IS TYPICAL
Consider, on the other hand, other societies - particularly in the developing world. Life centres around constant change as seen in shifting political and financial systems. Attitudes towards time are more flexible, and probably have evolved this way as a coping mechanism in the face of uncertainty. What is interesting, though, certainly in Jamaica, is that lateness is typical of the most powerful person in the room. Government ministers are late to meetings. Workers assemble and await the boss. Tardiness, it appears, seems to be the privilege of the powerful, another dastardly legacy of slavery, no doubt.
As Jamaica moves into growth mode and towards making Vision 2030 a reality, our leaders must model desired behaviour. It is time to throw off the vestiges of slavery and colonialism. Being late is not a symbol of power. It is rude, disrespectful and it is symptomatic of a banana republic mentality. Stop it. Time really is money. Let your punctuality be the start of new attitudes towards business, flawless execution and order. We expect better.