Fri | Feb 23, 2018

Letter of the Day | Fix joblessness, gun violence in communities

Published:Friday | December 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

What a sad story in my beautiful Jamaican paradise: sixteen hundred murders, sixteen hundred!

Children and families are losing loved ones to an issue as preventable as gun violence. Make no mistake, gun violence in Jamaica has reached epic proportion and is a public health crisis.

According to the United Nations, extreme poverty is "a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education, and information". Of course, I did not need the United Nations to describe for me what extreme poverty is. I lived in extreme poverty while growing up in Jamaica; hence, I am qualified to speak of what extreme poverty does to the social,cultural, spiritual and economic fabric of people who live in such conditions.

It is not a coincidence that the areas most affected by gun violence are in the core urban areas. These neighbourhoods have the largest incidence of poverty. These families have high mortality rates; their children have the lowest academic outcomes; the schools their children attend have run-down infrastructure; and health disparities are rampant. Families who live in poverty are unemployed, underemployed, and face significant challenges, barriers, and disparities. As a community, we must wrestle with, and find the solutions to extreme poverty, classism, and gun violence, which are inextricably connected.

So how do we address extreme poverty? To begin, the Government that holds the power of the purse must show that they care about people who live in extreme poverty. It cannot be lip service, it cannot be showing up and greeting children and their families, it cannot be about photo opportunities. Those things are "nice", and often times make both parties feel good; but it does not solve the problem of extreme poverty which is the root cause of violence.

 

INVEST IN SMALL BUSINESS

 

The Government must deliberately make robust investment into small business development. Small businesses are the lifeblood of any community. Small businesses employ more people than any rich corporation. The government must begin to allocate tax credits to small businesses who hire locals and provide tax incentives to large corporations who hire locals living in depressed communities.

We can fix the problem of joblessness and gun violence in our community; but, we must want to.

Marcia Ranglin-Vassell