Steve Lyston: Poor financial choices have hurt our nation
ULTIMATELY, ECONOMICS in its simplest form has to do with the choices we make. The masses may not generally understand economic terms and definitions and so some have taken the opportunity to confuse the masses with terminologies without an attempt to properly explain what it is all about. In truth, Jamaica's problem over the years has been wrong choices.
Successive administrations have been divesting the nation's resources and assets, taking poor advice from foreigners who only know about Jamaica's economy from a distance and then are making the comparison between the nation and Singapore.
Divestment is a trap, and if we continue to divest, Jamaicans are going to become trapped in their own country. Furthermore, if that happens, some of the amenities that Jamaicans now enjoy at home will be no more. Is divestment taking place for the personal gain of a few, or are we divesting because we are lazy?
I have said before, in many articles, that the nation has refused to train its local people which can, in fact, increase our gross domestic product and stabilise our dollar if that is done.
What each ministry should be doing, particularly tourism, agriculture, water, health, education and finance, is tailor-make programmes to train the communities. These programmes should be so designed that everyone can participate. It should address issues such as parenting, having children out of wedlock, the role of a father, conflict resolution and small business start-up. There should also be topics such as community tourism and the negative effects of crime; human trafficking and pimping. All these ministries already have personnel who are not being effectively employed. We need to move the people away from the 'eat-a-food' mentality.
The moment we begin to empower the people, explain terms and terminologies in simple language and helping them to understand how economics works and how they contribute to the whole process, then we will see results. We need to employ programmes that teach both adults and young people how to resist the 'drugs man' coercing them to drop off 'packages' within the schools.
Teach people how to resist corrupt politicians issuing cash to shut people up. Double the size of the army (which will increase employment) and use them as undercover personnel. Have regular transfer of bodyguards.
Better management of funds
The banks and credit unions also need to go into the communities and train people about saving and finance. Our people are not saving. Furthermore, there are those who have nothing to save, so they need to have community seminars on how to change that. They should open accounts for families within the communities free of charge for one year.
The banks and credit unions also need to give 10 per cent to 14 per cent interest on all savings. They can do it. This will cut out Ponzi-type schemes, as well as minimise money laundering, and will be a win-win situation. The people are not benefiting from the banks. The banks can also start opening accounts for newborns of all married couples and put the first $1,000 for them towards an education-focused account.
All savings account should be free, which will increase savings.
The Government needs to have an electronic benefits transfer system - where those of low or no income, and especially the elderly poor can deal with basic needs - food, medication, water and light. There also needs to be a flat rate on water that is based on the number of people in the household. Don't tell me that in the land of wood and water we can't have water at a flat rate. What needs to be done is that we need to build more tanks/reservoirs to harness that resource before foreigners get the water. We can do it ourselves, especially if we double the army and use the engineer regiment to carry out that task.
The general consumption tax needs to be reduced and increase the taxes to the tourists, especially in the tourist areas. If we are serious about what we are about as a nation, there is no way tourists should be enjoying lower taxes than the citizens and residents of the nation.
We need to have aggressive programmes that fully involve our youth and children significantly to engage in planting/replanting trees/flowers regularly and community clean-up programmes. Allow the youth to become involved in environmental change for the nation's future.
Finally, why does a small nation such as ours have so many car/used car dealerships? There needs to be regulation of that industry.
n Steve Lyston is a biblical economics consultant and author of several books, including 'End Time Finance' and 'The New Millionaire'.