Jamaica's business leaders have a lot to say about what they regret that Jamaica has not achieved in its 50 years of Independence, and what they would like to see us achieve in the next 50.
The Honourable John J. Issa, chairman of SuperClubs
"I greatly regret that after 50 years of Independence we have not been able to reach a higher standard of education for our youth and full literacy and numeracy for our people. It is also very sad that after 50 years of Independence that we do not have a justice system that functions efficiently and expeditiously. There has also been serious deterioration in our civility towards one another.
"I am hopeful that the occasion of our 50th anniversary of Independence will allow us to honestly reflect on the shortcomings of the past five decades in order to rectify these failures and use the coming decades to build a better Jamaica for ourselves, our children and their children."
Basil Johnson, managing director, Discount Lumber and Hardware:
"Jamaica must position itself so that it can achieve true economic independence in the next 50 years. I believe in getting our people involved in the day-to-day commercial activities of the country, because we are not doing well at that right now. We are way behind," said the managing director of Discount Lumber and Hardware.
"All the small businesses in the country are being run by the Chinese and we are a country of high unemployment. Why did we allow that to happen? I don't know."
Being one of the most successful self-made businessmen in the island, Johnson is a passionate advocate for entrepreneurship.
Johnson is disappointed that more educational opportunities were not available to empower and transform the lives of Jamaicans over the past 50 years.
"I think the most important thing we could have achieved was the development of our own people educationally. We have done fairly well, but I think we can do much more."
Thalia Lyn, chairman of NCB Foundation and CEO, Island Grill:
"Brand Jamaica reverberating around the world with such a positive vibe as we celebrate our 50th anniversary is a tribute to the accomplishments of the people of Jamaica. Jamaicans everywhere excel in just about every field - music, athletics, business, education, the arts, and the list goes on. Every corner of the world has a Jamaican who has excelled in his/her field. And all this with huge gaps in our system - crime not under control, poor infrastructure denying us a regular water supply, but bequeathing a legacy of potholed roads where indisciplined drivers reign supreme; our inability to improve literacy, health care, and take care of our children, the physically challenged and elderly, as well as garbage washing from the gullies to pollute our rivers and sea.
"As the honorary consul general of Thailand, after seeing what they have achieved in agriculture, we must take not a page out of their book, but a book out of their library! But despite our failing in those areas, Jamaica has produced giants in many diverse fields. So imagine what Jamaica could be like in the next 50 years if we invested in our people, if we fixed our education system, social amenities, health and judicial systems so that Jamaicans can be more productive and self-reliant. We are blessed with the natural resources to feed ourselves and so should look at our half-filled cup and zealously pursue filling it to overflowing, to becoming a First World country, because we are already a first world people."
Brian Jardim, CEO, Rainforest Seafoods:
"It is incredible what Jamaicans have achieved as a nation and its impact on the world around us in 50 years. Beyond athletics and music, there are so many wonderful success stories in the fields of the arts, business, and medicine.
"Our creativity as a people, our focus and commitment are hard to beat. Our resilience and strong belief in ourselves, our patriotism and Jamaican essence have certainly helped us to make our mark on the planet," Jardim said.
He said it is important that, as Jamaica moves through the 21st century and beyond, we remain ever mindful of our environment on this little rock that we all share.
"Our involvement in maintaining its sustainability and minimising our carbon footprint are paramount. The education of our future generations must become an obsession ... an unshakeable mandate. Accountability, transparency and innovation in both the public and private sectors, and a serious commitment to work hand in hand for the continued growth of our beautiful country, must also be our mantra," Jardim said.
Wayne Chen, president, Jamaica Employers' Federation
Chen believes that if values and attitudes are taught and instilled in the society, it will improve the country's present belligerent state.
Jamaica, he said, had seen economic growth in the period prior to its Independence. Chen described this era as one of the most successful periods, as Jamaica was setting the foundation by diversifying its economy. There were many migrants to the United Kingdom prior to Independence. However, with independence the migration started inward instead of outward.
"Persons started to drift towards urban centres and this helped to contribute to the inner-city squalor, and nothing was done then to tackle these problems," Chen said.
He said as a result of the economic situation and the lack of opportunities, other areas, including education and the values and attitudes of the society, have drifted.
"An educated people cannot remain poor and underdeveloped. We need to educate the people so that they can be literate and adopt values and attitudes of a modern society. People can then develop tolerance, take personal responsibility, love of learning, good parenting skills, and fulfil their potential," Chen said.
He said every child should be guaranteed an equal educational opportunity. "Not everyone will end up with a PhD, but they should have fundamental values and attitudes."