Fri | Apr 16, 2021

Letter of the Day | A parallel between the economy and crime

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2021 | 12:11 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke, speaking in the House of Parliament recently, made note of the dramatic reversal of fortunes of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) in terms of its profitability. The minister attributed the central bank’s remarkable success to a modernisation exercise, which the bank undertook in 2018, as well as a deliberate and calculated shift in the country’s monetary policy. The policy shift involved the BOJ’s move towards inflation-targeting and away from an exchange rate-focused policy.

The finance minister expressed that the latter, with its preoccupation with movements in the exchange rate, often caused excessive interventions in the market. This ultimately resulted in a significant hidden fiscal cost to the country.

The announcement by the finance minister immediately raised a parallel in my mind between the economy and crime. This analogy can best be illustrated by equating a few economic variables with some in the area of crime.

1. First, the country’s exchange rate can be likened to the rate of police-involved shootings (which do not mean extrajudicial killings, as oftentimes portrayed).

2. Second, the inflation rate can be equated to the homicide rate, which are both desirable when they are low and stable.

3. And third, the central bank’s modernisation exercise would be analogous to the bold institutional changes currently taking place within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in terms of restructuring, and technological and infrastructural improvements.

PREOCCUPATION WITH POLICE-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS

For a long time in this country, there has been a preoccupation with police-involved shootings. This fixation has taken us to a point where, at times, even excellent policing work is viewed with suspicion, scepticism, or even disparagement by sections of the society. This almost-constant scrutiny of the police’s every action would definitely be akin to the country’s previous obsession with the short-term changes in the foreign exchange market over and above a real focus on price stability or low inflation.

There is no doubt that police-involved shootings must be monitored in any democratic society. However, I do not subscribe to the default position, taken by some, of always bringing pressure to bear on the police to have reduced levels of police-involved shooting as an outcome.

Let me hasten to point out that this expectation of the police is within the context of a high proliferation of gangs and guns throughout the country, as well as the propensity of criminals to confront and engage the police. If anything, a high rate of police-involved shootings would merely be a reflection of the hostile policing environment and the high level of threat posed to the country’s peace and security.

Just like the previous BOJ exchange rate-focused policy, an excessive preoccupation with police-involved shootings can only result in unintended, dire consequences for the country overall.

We all know that any sustainable reduction in crime and violence can only be achieved when the security forces aggressively pursue, confront and ultimately degrade the large number of threat actors operating within our society. Therefore, any action that will seek to unduly influence or interfere with this clear and critical mandate will only be inimical to our best interests.

PERFECT MODEL

An unequivocal message must be sent to our security forces to signal the unwavering support of every law-abiding citizen for their difficult and challenging task, without their every action being constantly called into question. Demoralisation and disheartenment of the security forces, like the preoccupation with changes in the foreign exchange market, come with a huge hidden cost. As such, the BOJ’s case study lays out a perfect model for us to follow with regard to our crime-fighting efforts.

And so, with the transformation of the JCF currently in full gear, it is now up to us as a society to maintain the right focus and attention, which will ultimately deliver the outcome that we all desire.

ACTIVE MINDS

Think Tank

Jamaica