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EDITORIAL - The political gangs disillusioned Jamaica

Published:Wednesday | June 29, 2011 | 12:00 AM

There can hardly be a more telling and damning indictment of the way Jamaica's affairs have been managed over the past half-century than one of the findings, published yesterday, of an opinion poll conducted on behalf of this newspaper.

Nearly 50 years into our country's Independence, to be marked in August 2012, six out of 10 adult Jamaicans believe that they would have been better off if Jamaica was still a British colony.

Only 17 per cent believed that they would not have done as well had Jamaica still flown the Union Jack, and 23 per cent couldn't say.

As painful, and some will claim insulting, as these statistics may be to Jamaican nationalists, they are quite understandable - and even logical. The attitudes are formed by people's existing realities and their expectations for the future.

These realities include living in a country where, for more than a generation, economic growth has averaged below two per cent per annum and its homicide rate among the highest in the world.

Severe stress

While Jamaican institutions have not totally collapsed, they are under severe stress. For instance, its justice system barely creaks along, law and order is patchy, education outcomes are indifferent, the state bureaucracy is inefficient, and most people believe the country to be overwhelmingly corrupt.

It is perhaps positive that despite these facts, Jamaica has not been counted in the ranks of failed states and that we have maintained a political process that appears to maintain the characteristics of a liberal and plural democracy.

But Jamaica's democracy provides a veneer that masks a dysfunctional politics that underpins the economic and social stagnation that is reflected in the referenced poll findings. Put another way, Jamaica's problems largely reflect the failure of political leadership and the logic of our widely embraced thesis of the political parties that have alternated in power in Jamaica since Independence and have essentially operated like gangs.

Of course, the parties achieved things that are a credit to the country - like street gangs, they sometimes do things that may, of themselves, bring value to communities.

Chaos

But more broadly, Jamaica's political parties, the gangs of Gordon House, have operated like closed organisations, pursuing state power in the interests of the group. Indeed, theirs has been an approach to politics that has delivered garrison communities - zones of exclusion, where either of the two major parties holds sway, with the support of strong-arm, even if increasingly independent, enforcers.

This kind of order is, ultimately, unsustainable. It delivers social and economic chaos and, in the end, decay and atrophy - as is reflected in little, or no growth, crime and societal disillusionment. So 60 per cent of Jamaicans would prefer if their country was a colony of a second-rate power.

Unfortunately, the gangs of Gordon House appear not to have grasped the state of the country, remain in denial about what they are and, therefore, are unwilling to do what is necessary to take the bold steps to liberate Jamaica. This failure is exacerbated by the fact that they remain relatively strong brands and a duopoly on power.

In the circumstance, things could get worse before they become better if the gangs of Gordon House don't perceive the crisis and reform themselves.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.