Trevor Munroe, Guest Columnist
Below is an excerpt from Professor Trevor Munroe's presentation to the Kiwanis Club of Kingston on Tuesday, July 17.
The journey since Independence has registered many outstanding achievements - outstanding achievements built on strong foundations of the past, foundations forged in our people struggling for opportunity out of adversity, a struggle which saw the Jamaican people:
So these were the foundations on which we begun that journey in 1962 and have continued for the past 50 years. But those foundations, along with strengths, had many weaknesses, which we as a people have had to tackle with much success since then. Weaknesses in:
NOT ALL GLOOMY
So let no one suggest that our journey since Independence has produced no progress or deny that in 50 years we have achieved in some areas what colonial rule had failed to accomplish in 300 years and that these achievements have reflected the combined efforts of workers and employees, white collar and blue collar, managers and professionals from all walks of life.
And talking about achievements, it is not just a matter of the society as a whole, but the opportunities opened up since Independence and the talents of our people have produced world-class scientists like Professor Anthony Chen, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago; world-class leaders like Butch Stewart and John Issa; world-class public servants like Justice Patrick Robinson, who now serves at the pinnacle of the global judicial system in the International Criminal Court; world-class academics like Professor Orlando Patterson; world-class religious leaders, founders of new orders like Father Richard Ho Lung.
So whether we look at the society as a whole or these outstanding individuals, the journey has brought progress. And that is a side of the picture which must never be hidden or glossed over. Not least of all because it reveals the Jamaican people's capacity and ability to deal with the other side, to overcome the dark side of our journey since Independence.
So dark is that side that we can say that we have lost our way on the journey; the convoy has stalled. There is no other way to describe it when for the last 40 years our GDP has had an annual growth rate of 0.9 per cent and there have been annual declines in productivity of 1.3 per cent per annum for more than 30 years.
Our people have become too divided by tribal politics and by wide gaps between the rich few and the majority poor and not so well off; we have gone in too many different directions. About 85 per cent of our tertiary graduates are migrating, large numbers of unattached youth have gone in the direction of crime as both victims and perpetrators.
Approximately 1,500 Jamaicans every year, on average, are being murdered by Jamaicans. That puts our murder rate - reduced in the last two years - but still at more than 40 per 100,000. At Independence, can you guess what our murder rate was? Three per 100,000.
So, on almost all indicators we have fallen well behind our potential, and well behind those who not too long ago we were ahead of. Take Mexico, for example. In 1970, its real per capita GDP was US$3,580; ours was US$3,350. Today, in 2008, the last year for which I have comparative figures, Mexico has moved to US$6,590; we have stayed more or less the same at US$3,790.
Take another example. Panama, behind us in 1970 at US$2,740 per capita GDP, is now well ahead of us at US$5,590. So it is not surprising that we are well down on most global rankings in global competitiveness (107 of 142), in human development (79 of 186), in control of corruption (86 of 182 on the CPI); most of all, but perhaps most intangibly, we have stalled and even gone backways in how we treat one another in that golden rule, in values such as honesty, integrity and respect for one another and for orderly behaviour.
WE CAN FIND OUR WAY AGAIN
But Jamaica and Jamaicans have lost their way in the past and have regained direction and momentum, so it has been then, so it can be now.
The critical factor to get us moving again is leadership, exemplary and transformational leadership in all spheres; in politics, in the private sector, in our religious organisations, in our civic bodies at the national and local levels. And don't tell me that that leadership cannot be found.
It was civic leadership coming together in the late 1930s and early 1940s which formed organisations like the Federation; of citizens' associations which helped to move Jamaica out of the rut of stagnation in the 1920s and '30s. Exemplary and transformational leadership practises what it preaches, is not hypocritical, is not afraid to tell followers when they are work and explain why they are wrong; why for example, giving people jobs, positions and contracts based on merit or capacity and on need rather than on party connection, which is holding back Jamaica and stalling us on the journey.
But exemplary leadership helps to produce and is reinforced by followers who are prepared to commend leaders when they do good and to criticise them when they do wrong and tell them when they have to change course. This is perhaps one of the main requirements to get Jamaica moving again - citizens must talk out, must stand up, must express rage when leaders go wrong. With this outrage, some results can be seen.
KEEPING JAMAICA MOVING
Recently, our people in 24/7 talk shows, in print and on television lashed our Parliament for gross misbehaviour. Some apology was forthcoming, not as much as I would wish, but nevertheless, without the lashing nothing would have been forthcoming. Then earlier on, the people's outcry contributed immensely to the confessed crime lord, 'Dudus' Coke, being extradited from Jamaica.
In that last regard, perhaps, not so much would been achieved without support for our people from our international partners. And, therefore, solidarity from our international partners, alongside strong public demand, courageous professional and civic leadership as well as transformational leaders is the formula to get and keep Jamaica moving for the next 50 years. Not least of all in controlling corruption, which costs Jamaica so much in:
To bring this cancer under control, the National Integrity Action is seeking to play its part.
We believe, in this 50th year of Independence, our leadership needs to be held to account to deliver on two commitments critical to the combat of corruption, namely, campaign-finance regulation and a single anti-corruption agency with prosecutorial powers.
Professor Trevor Munroe is head of National Integrity Action. Email feedback to email@example.com.