Wednesday | February 28, 2001
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Losing our brightest and best


Delroy Chuck

WHILE THE government gleefully praises itself for meeting some IMF targets, even while failing others abysmally, the whole society falls apart steadily and unrelentingly. The past weekend was, again, another sad one, as two police officers and a Resident Magistrate were brutally murdered and join the long and soon forgotten criminal statistics. Each week, we recount the tale of woes, of hopelessness, of social decay and economic decline, yet the government and the IMF think we are on the right track.

Somehow, the economic madness reverberating around the country seems to have escaped the attention of our economic planners, our government leaders and the international assessors, as a growing majority of our people see and feel the reality of economic hardship, social disintegration and the agony of despair. The rampant crime and violence, the corruption and indiscipline and the periodic protests and demonstrations are testimonies to a restless and rotten society ­ waiting to explode. Does it not explain why, quietly and increasingly, educated and talented Jamaicans are leaving and turning their backs on the land of their birth?

The level of desperation in and out of our country has reached alarming new heights. Perhaps, I am the only one feeling it and would be happy to hear otherwise, especially from those who feel we are on the right path and that so many wonderful things are happening in the country. That is definitely not my experience.

During the past month and more, I have picked up on the ground, from Jamaicans at all levels of our social strata, a growing anger, a hurtful bitterness and an anxious plea to save and rescue the country. The older folks have sadly confessed how their generation failed, as they allowed the country to drift and to be overtaken by 'samfie' men ­ armed with good intentions, alien ideologies and the pursuit of narrow, self-serving interests. They have done their duty and can do no more, so they urge those of us with the courage and will to fight for what is right and to set this country on the right path.

Then, the young and middle age professionals are truly bitter, lost and depressed, and are eager to make a final decision whether to stay and fight or seek refuge and a decent quality of life elsewhere. Not long ago, perhaps 10 or more years, a talented young professional could easily expect to be well employed and to earn a decent living. Lawyers had a choice of jobs and the court system had grave difficulties attracting law graduates to work in the courts or the government service. I remember well former Chief Justice Edward Zacca's proposal to make it mandatory for law school graduates to work for a period of time in the court system, to fill the vacancies, before they could be given their qualifying certificates. Nowadays, every vacancy in the courts or the government service is full, not because they offer good terms and conditions but there are no available jobs in the private sector. Law graduates are desperate and many have found employment and other opportunities overseas.

Yet, it isn't only law graduates, every other professional category is losing the brightest and best graduates as the jobs and opportunities simply do not exist. But, it gets even worse. Our teachers, with many years' experience and training, can no longer count on security of tenure in the teaching profession, and many are quietly contemplating if, with a few more decades of teaching ahead of them, they should not seek employment in the Bahamas, Cayman or the USA ­ where many have and more are following.

Indeed, our classrooms in the 'better off' schools are emptying rapidly as parents send our brightest and best abroad in hope of a better quality of education. Amazingly, our present leaders actually see nothing wrong and rationalise its occurrence by arguing that these persons are the source of the massive remittances from which we benefit annually. How sad! It is really a backward and dense mentality to think that export of our best people is a source of foreign exchange when in reality these are the people we want to retain to build a good society.

In fact, what is the government doing to stem the tide of migration presently overwhelming the society? Does the government really care if our brightest and best talent actually leave? Cannot our leaders appreciate and understand that when our brightest and best leave, it is another measure of social and economic decay and actually contributes to even further decay?

There are hundreds of thousands who have no choice, no jobs, no opportunities and no hope and wait for our leaders to turn the country around. I meet them daily as I go through my constituency or walk and campaign in North East St. Ann.

Hardship and misery

Young men and women are desperately seeking employment to turn their lives around. Many have not worked for months and years and provide the easy material for criminal gangs and wrongdoing in the inner cities and poorer areas of our society.

Indeed, I was not even aware that things were so desperate and declining so rapidly in the rest of the country. In Ocho Rios and surrounding areas, the people live in squalor; some still carry water on their heads for domestic purposes; many temporarily escape from the hardship and misery through drugs and willingly sell their bodies and souls, as life is so hard.

When people are unable to make a decent living and jobs and opportunities are disappearing then they recognise that the country is drifting and heading into even deeper recession. They are angry therefore when the IMF and the government can find solace and comfort in the present state of the economy and the rest of the country can only find and feel hardship, hopelessness and a heavy burden to survive. Perhaps, when we hit rock bottom, the government will admit we were not on the right track, but where will be our brightest and best talent to heal the wounds and distress of the nation?

Delroy Chuck is an attorney-at-law and Opposition Member of Parliament. He can be contacted by e-mail at delchuck@hotmail.com.

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