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Government must get its act together, says Silver Pen Award winner

Published:Friday | June 12, 2015 | 6:00 AM
Silver Pen winner Patrick Walker poses with his award at The Gleaner's North Street office in Kingston yesterday.

Patrick Walker has earned himself a Gleaner Silver Pen Award for his letter to the editor titled 'Identity More than Labels', published on March 2.

Judge on the International Court of Justice, Patrick Robinson claims that Jamaica needs to separate itself from the British Monarchy in order to sort out its "muddled identity".

Robinson said the first step would be to change the title of the Throne Speech to the Marcus Garvey Policy Statement, prompting a response from Walker.

"Why does [Judge Robinson] think that changing the name of a speech is all of a sudden going to give someone a sense of a new identity?" the letter begins.

"Have you ever had a problem identifying your fellow countryman? Have you ever mistaken him/her for Trinidadian or a St Lucian?"

Walker conceded that the judge was not speaking in the literal sense - Jamaicans are easily identifiable through their speech, mannerisms, etc - but claimed, "That's my problem. The challenges Jamaicans are facing have nothing to do with some esoterically defined notion of who we think we are".

The original letter to the editor asks, "Why it was that in the 1960s, when the Monarchy was even more prominent than today, we were seen as the poster child of the region".

Continuing his assault on the notion that the monarchy is to blame for Jamaica's woes, Walker was quick to point out that "there can be no contest" that Jamaica was at its best in the '60s when the monarchy maintained a strong presence in the region.

 

Jamaica and Singapore

 

Utilising Singapore, another former British colony, Walker emphasised the fact that "both [Jamaica and Singapore] had shared practically the same economic and social foundations at the time they were granted independence" and noted that "Jamaica was at one point ahead of Singapore economically" (this is not quite true today). The presence of the British monarchy clearly, then, has no effect on economic success.

Walker declared to The Gleaner that the main problem in Jamaica was "[the Jamaican Government's] inability to do what needs to be done ... either make laws or you scrap them; it is not sufficient to just have laws on the books [without enforcing them]."

He said: "The Government feels responsible for the state of affairs, so it tends to be more lax."

Walker utilised an example of how street vendors were allowed on the streets despite the technical illegality of it, stating that the Government does not want to deny people their livelihood.

According to Walker, the Government needs to get its act together.

"You have to really do the things that lead to progress."

He hammered home the point that "proper fiscal management" alongside "constraining expenditures" would be the long-lasting fix for Jamaica's economic woes, and the Government is "now taking those steps [towards proper fiscal management and constraining expenditures] with the IMF agreement."

An overactive government "leaves that much less for the private sector," continued Walker. "The private sector is the locomotive that drives the nation forward. We need something to add steam to that locomotive."

george.tomblin@gleanerjm.com