Therefore, while we understand the cynicism that has pervaded our discussions, some of us must still hope that Jamaica's fortunes will see better days. Translating this hope into reality will not be achieved by yet again sitting back and expecting miracles from PM Holness (the latest messiah) and other leaders of our country; rather we must be more active and play a greater role in shaping that future.
Although his swearing-in speech was a tad longer than we are accustomed to at these functions, the speech was punctuated by some very important points. The prime minister, by placing the genesis of our political tribalism in the 1970s when he was a mere child, gave me the impression that his generation is more inclined to break free from the shackles of this tribalism than my generation, which includes his predecessor and the current opposition leader.
Second was his assertion that education must be the principal vehicle for social transformation, citing his own experience as a living example.
Third, in taking a swipe at the opposition leader, he explained that while he loves the poor, he hates poverty, and that only loving the poor only keeps them poor.
Fourth, our borrowing, ostensibly to help the poor, has, in fact, resulted in a debt which remains a millstone around our collective necks, more so around those of the poor.
Finally, he extended an invitation to civil society to get fully involved in governance and public service.
promises vs performance
Now we all know that speeches are promises, and that promises are comforts to fools. Jamaica and, indeed, all nations, are replete with politicians making many promises and delivering few. Were Jamaica to have realised one quarter of the promises made since Independence, we would have achieved Vision 2030 well before the end of the last millennium.
Rather than viewing the promises made by the prime minister as comfort, I view them as an opportunity to hold him accountable; not because I want to see him fail, rather because I want to see the promises come true to benefit my generation and those to come.
True to form, our commentators have arrived at conclusions following the new prime minister's first major decision - his naming of the Cabinet. I am not as concerned, as most persons, that the prime minister has, for the most part, retained the former members.
First, we must remember that an election is imminent and that new ministers will not be able to make it up the learning curve in a short period, particularly when most will be active in the campaign.
Second, we must not forget that different leaders can extract greater levels of performance from the same team. This can only be done through continuous articulation of a vision; modelling desired behaviour; developing and leading the execution of a clear strategy; coaching, empowering and holding team members accountable.
The most astute change in the Cabinet has been the new assignment of public-sector efficiency to Daryl Vaz. The PM appears to be signalling his intention for real public-sector transformation. Not since Edward Seaga downsized the public sector in the mid-1980s has any prime minister had the testicular fortitude to take the necessary tough decision to do so.
While the Patricia Sinclair McCalla-led Public Sector Transformation Unit (PSTU) has done a creditable job in articulating the restructure needed, very little execution has taken place as inertia has been the name of the game. Who better a person than the go-getter Daryl Vaz to drive that execution process? His replacement at information, Arthur Williams, has the necessary credentials to be the chief spokesman for the government.
civil society's responsibility
What about the role of civil society? As mentioned above, the PM has stretched out his hand to us all to become involved. Let us remember that former PM P.J. Patterson, during his 1997-2002 administration, invited then non-aligned Professor Trevor Munroe and Dr Douglas Orane into the Senate. Both contributed greatly, with the latter remembered for his report on waste in government. In fact, while the report identified some $6 billion worth of potential savings, less than $200 million, or three per cent, was everimplemented.
What we do not want is for PM Holness to repeat Mr Patterson's decision to make it a one-off experiment, as Dr Orane was not returned to the Senate following the 2002 election and the goodly professor sat as a PNP senator. Mr Patterson's change of heart may have been strongly influenced by the substantial reduction in his party's seat count following the 2002 elections.
My point is that we cannot simply depend on a prime minister to invite civil society's involvement when he/she feels it expedient to do so; rather we should enshrine in the Constitution civil society's involvement in national governance. This could be achieved by reserving Senate appointments to designated civil-society groups such as the unions, Church, private sector and the diaspora.
How, therefore, can civil society assert itself? First and foremost, we must behave as Jamaicans first and party supporter second. Second, we must make our voices heard. Many prominent Jamaicans who are service providers to the Government, such as contractors, consultants and even public-sector board members, view themselves as beneficiaries and are not inclined to speak out.
When we do speak out, we must do so in the context of being Jamaican first. We will never get away from passionate party loyalists who speak out for a different reason and ought not to be drawn into their way of reasoning. We must constantly remind PM Holness that actions and programmes are means to ends, and not ends themselves.
Therefore, we must hold the PM accountable to the achievement of performance targets in the broad areas of security, justice, social, economic and physical environment. At the same time, we must hold the PM and his team to high levels of governance, transparency and accountability. These require transformation which, in turn, require good leadership.
We must commit to accepting the prime minister's outstretched hands; however, we must be empowered as we do so. We, too, must hold ourselves accountable as we hold the prime minister accountable to leading the transformation of Jamaica to be the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.
Robert Wynter is the managing director of Strategic Alignment Limited, which facilitates organisational realignment and leadership development. Comments are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.