THE EDITOR, Sir,
The bunting that adorned public and private buildings and electric posts is fading and the yellow (gold?) is turning white, but memories of the celebration of the first 50 years are still fresh. Like the moon, our economy and development waxed and waned. Waxed for the first decade or so, waned for the rest of the time.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, Jamaica was in its ascendancy. Banana ships called weekly, bauxite was growing. Jamaica being the largest exporter then, the sugar industry was flourishing, education was on the upswing, the land was fertile, fish abounded in the sea, other export agriculture was promising, crime was minimal in comparison to now, factories opened on a regular basis, tourism was growing rapidly, we were almost debt free, and our currency was strong.
It is true that we have made some progress. Most of our younger people don't know the kerosene lamp; education is more widespread, although the quality is doubtful; housing and other things have improved; and more people have running water.
However, most metal workers did not know how to make window grilles because they were not needed; persons could go about their business or pleasure at any time and felt safe. Many people were poor at Independence, but we seem to have increased the numbers today.
There seem to be far more homeless people on the streets than was apparent 50 years ago. We boast about the social programmes such as the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, but if we were making the progress hoped for at Independence, the numbers on that programme should be steadily reducing rather than increasing.
Jamaica ended the first 50 and has started the second with debt that could cause our death. The seas are becoming barren because of pollution and fish are scarce. Bauxite is almost exhausted, and apart from some great craters on our landscape, we have little to show for it.
What will we tell the future generations when they learn that we were once the premier bauxite producer in the world. We can't show high-quality roads, schools, or hospital buildings that we got from our red dirt.
REALITY, NOT PESSIMISM
Sugar production has declined by about 70 per cent, the banana boats are dim memories. Other export crops such as ginger, citrus, kola nuts are things of the past. Tourism has grown, but it is such a fragile industry that if it collapses, "we dead". Work attitudes and productivity are not competitive by world standards, so we are not a magnet for investment. Bureaucracy strangles us like fig roots around a pear tree, and corruption in places high and low is choking us to death.
I am not a pessimist, but one has to be realistic. Like the West Indies cricket team, we can rise from the ashes, but we need to have a complete makeover of our leadership (not necessarily of persons), developing state persons with vision and determination who put the country before political party to pull us out of the hole.
Very few of us who were there at the start will be around for the next 50 years, but I hope future generations will live in the type of Jamaica we hoped for at Independence.