Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Decrying the 'pre-Obama' mentality

Published:Wednesday | April 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM
United States President Barack Obama

TODAY, president of the United States, Barack Obama will arrive on the island for a two-day bilateral visit.

Obama will have a busy schedule. He will meet with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and other Caribbean leaders to discuss bilateral issues. He will discuss his views with us at the Young Leaders Town Hall meeting tomorrow and at the same time bond with Jamaica. Obama's focus will be on aspects of importance to the United States; the president normally visits other countries to discuss issues regarding economics, security and energy.

Anything discussed will be of national priority to move forward, no time should be spent discussing petty issues of small selfish lobby groups. Jamaica and the Caribbean Community in general should raise issues concerning broadening market access and rationalising existing non-tariff barriers to trade.

Specifics of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act, the Caribbean Trade Partnership Act and the Generalized System of Preferences Programme should be mentioned.

A move from preferential arrangements for merchandise sale to the provision of information and communication technology and other services is welcoming. The role of Jamaica's marijuana and other herbs and spices to the US and global nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industry is critical for discussion. Jamaican and Caribbean leaders should not overlook the importance of these industries to Caribbean development. Given that the US has been legalising it state by state, can we legalise it parish by parish?

The business environment in Jamaica has been improving. The world is now more serious about Jamaica where business in concerned. If there was nothing significant about the island, Joe Biden would be sent here or some other delegate. The fact that they have decided that Obama himself is visiting should not be overlooked.

Over the last few weeks, Kingston has been remodelling itself to accommodate the president. All of a sudden, Kingston has found its productive mentality, demonstrating work ethics like the Chinese balanced by German-like timeliness. Road maintainers and civil engineers have been working 24 hours; day and night even on Sundays and public holidays. Road work improvements and metropolitan rehabilitation have been taking place anywhere the president is expected to drive.




I have never seen the city so industrious in all my life. Additionally, crab vendors who have been selling at Heroes Circle for decades and others streetside vendors who peddle along the route that Obama will be driving have been displaced and their stalls dismantled.

The president is not allowed to see the usual pothole-filled roads. At least five major hotels are fully booked to accommodate the president. It's a good look from my point of view, even though I am unhappy about the displacement of the vendors.

As Caribbean nationals, it is natural to give our homes extra cleaning to welcome important visitors. Change the sheets on the bed and the curtains, wipe down windows and sweep out the place. A good home is constantly kept tidy not just cleaned in anticipation of visitors. One of things I always admire about big cities; London, New York, Beijing, is the constant demolishing of irrelevant building, re-construction of new ones and infrastructural improvement is an ongoing process, day and night, 365 days of the year, every year non-stop.

Their approach to development is not an on and off thing like what occurs here in Kingston. The cities are constantly evolving with time, remaining developed. From a national point of view, our displayed industriousness over the last few weeks has illustrated that we have the ability to do the same on a constant basis, even as a small city, but we refuse to.

We cannot welcome visitors to an untidy place, but we can live in it. Is this the right message we are sending to our children? That we must only improve productivity in anticipation of visitors? I wish Obama could postpone his visit by a month so that we can have more work done because, as soon as he leaves, Jamaica will automatically lose the industriousness and revert to the pre-Obama mentality it has displayed over the last 50 years.

- Dr Andre Haughton is a lecturer in the Department of Economics on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies. Follow him on twitter @DrAndreHaughton; or email