Mon | Jul 15, 2019

Don’t squander gains, PSOJ boss warns politicians

Published:Friday | May 24, 2019 | 12:08 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Howard Mitchell
Howard Mitchell

Hard-earned gains in stabilising the Jamaican economy could be eroded if political leaders fail to take lessons from the past, argues Howard Mitchell, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).

Mitchell painted a dire picture for Jamaica’s future should wanton corruption and violence go unchecked while urging the Holness administration to advance dialogue on governance issues with urgency.

The business lobby leader held no punches in a wide-ranging speech at the Organization, Development and Transformation Conference in Kingston on Wednesday at the Spanish Court Hotel, noting the “the zero-sum game of who is more corrupt and who has been more negligent in protecting the people” makes him seethe with anger.

“I am using this medium to once again call on our political leaders to come together on the challenge of crime and indiscipline and to enrol civil society in addressing that challenge. Call it what you will – a crime summit, Vale Royal talks or violence commission – but please bring us together in one room and let us advance our common cause,” Mitchell said.

PAST POLITICS

He said that no one must be allowed to forget the decades of the 1970s and 1980s when political violence reached unprecedented heights in the country, noting, as well, that decades of low or negative growth had threatened to sink the country economically. Mitchell reasoned that errant politicians must not be allowed to drag the country back into the abyss of discontent and economic mayhem.

“So let me ask you a question. Is it that we have attained the Promised Land, a utopia in which no further impediment to our growth and development exists? Can anyone here think of any other national challenge that rises to the level of those two that were previously solved by concerted national action?

“Oh, ok, maybe crime and indiscipline? Could that be one? Could it be that violent crime, which has been described as stealing as much as six per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP) when coupled with indiscipline and corruption, is estimated collectively to consume another nine per cent of GDP growth? Could it be that those major threats to the security of our citizens are challenges that the State, acting alone, cannot solve?” asked Mitchell.

He stated that blind political ego was a huge impediment to successful transformation.

“Instead of coming together to address the twin monsters of crime and corruption that feed on each other and which benefit from our isolationist and selfish promotion of individual interests, we keep pointing fingers of blame in a pointless, self-defeating, circular and childish game that distracts from the stark reality of the vicious brutality that destroys the innocence of our children.

“I am very aware that my criticisms and my calls for action do not win friends. I am only hoping that they influence people,” added Mitchell.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com