Chester Francis-Jackson, Contributor
Over the years, our business and political leaders have demonstrated a penchant for majoring in the minor. They have been quibbling over form and not substance.
Indeed, very little has been advanced by way of policy initiatives in recent times that can and would pass muster to advance the national cake and to address the needs of the country's growing and more educated and demanding society - a society that is now more exposed to the lifestyle of the economically and technologically advanced economies and cultures, and is now demanding that lifestyle, services and accountability be on par with the societies perceived to be meeting the aspirations of their citizens.
Now, no one argues that Jamaica cannot provide comparative services and ascension for its own citizenry. Indeed, the political directorate from either end of the political divide has been on record at one time or another as being committed to moving in this direction. What seems to be missing, however, is the road map to this supposed conventional utopia. And where the concept of a road map has been advanced, it seems to be predicated on the colonial infrastructure and or what was then, the engine of growth for a different Jamaica.
Let us begin by accepting that the colonial and post-colonial growth stratagem is no longer a functional or viable vehicle in the current dispensation, as indeed the troika of bauxite, tourism and agriculture, which were once thought of as the basis of our economic salvation, have all undergone seismic shifts to the point that at least two pillars have been seriously undermined by the passage of time and 'new knowledge' which now renders these two pillars - bauxite and agriculture -
To be sure, let us accept that life is indeed cyclical, and so bauxite and agriculture could once again return to the commanding heights of powering/financing the Jamaican economy. But quite honestly, agriculture has been lumbering along from the '60s, with successive ministers of agriculture doing no more than being stewards of a crumbling and near decrepit sector.
Our reality is, since Michael Manley's attempt at land redistribution in the 1970s which promised the introduction of a new approach to farming and agriculture, nothing has been done to shore up our farming and agricultural sector. And all the talk and energy being given to sugar, and the decrepit sugar infrastructure needs to be redirected to other more sustainable agricultural exploits, such as coffee, cocoa, and other indigenous crops.
The abject reality is that sugar has been unmasked as a worldwide killer and should not be given anymore succour or financial support, but should be allowed to RIP.
Bauxite is another matter. With the advent of a pluralistic world where ideologies now openly contend sans the iron curtain and the cold-war and bunker mentality that attended that era which lent itself to the militarisation of the world, it has lost its pride of place.
On the other hand, tourism remains as viable as ever. And even more so now in an era of more open borders and a more adventurous world population.
In this respect, Jamaica, and particularly Kingston, is a treasure trove for the world traveller. So this now begs the question, why are we not harnessing the potential of the tourism market to the benefit of our people?
Our place in world history is secure, and this makes destination Jamaica, with the attendant history of Port Royal, colonial trappings and inheritance, our rich architecture and social and cultural history, a more attractive destination with more to offer to visitors than sun, sea and sand.
Indeed, it is time to rewrite the so-called 'Tourism Master Plan'. The new master plan must now move away from the heavy emphasis on the north coast to concentrate on the non-traditional areas that offer good potential for growth, and with that growth the financial empowerment of the masses. It must be Kingston-centric.
The plan must partner with others to explore the viability of placing cable cars as far up the Blue Mountain range as the range can accommodate. The National Heroes Park, the historic Devon House, Culture Yaad, the Bob Marley Museum and homes, the city's waterfront and a ferry service, Port Royal, must all be factored into the mix to make Kingston a more attractive destination than it now appears to be.
In this respect, King's House, the Hope Botanic Gardens and Zoo, the Jewish Synagogue, the Rockfort Mineral Baths, Bath Fountain in St Thomas, the gardens of Cinchona, the gardens of Castleton; Flamstead as the site of the home of colonial Governor Eyre, Spanish Town, the unique engineering feat of the Flat Bridge and the wrought-iron bridge in Spanish Town, the Arawak Museum and sites need to be rehabilitated, and along with the home of Noel Coward, Errol Flynn and other such historical figures, are just a few of our historical resources just waiting to be tapped, packaged and sold to the world.
Finally, as we move forward, the old maxim 'less is more' must be the new mantra of the Government. And in this vein, the Government and its self-serving bureaucratic infrastructure that stands in the way of innovation, creativity and industry must be retarded, if not totally cauterised.
Indeed, the time is now, but not for quibbling. The Government must embrace its destiny and lead its people to the promised land, while leaving the Opposition and the talking heads behind to indulge in the most inexpensive pastime of all time - talk!