Dennie Quill, Columnist
One week into the new year and 2013 is starting to feel old - very old, indeed. The stench of rotting garbage is everywhere, highway carnage, traffic-ticket amnesty fiasco, creeping confusion over negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), mob killing, murder, and courts creaking under the burden of age-old cases which will not be cleared because it is becoming harder to find witnesses and citizens willing to serve as jurors. And I anticipate that there will be new woes piled atop these old ones.
What, you may ask, did I expect? Like the man who continues to believe in miracles, I expected some sort of respite from violence and murder and chaos. I expected that children in state care would get the attention they so desperately need to help them reset their own goals for development.
I expected that the Government would give us an indication of how it intends to tackle the real issues, like disrespect for law and order and the resultant lawlessness that is so evident, or how it intends to transform the Jamaican economy to achieve manufacturing compe-titiveness and export greatness.
Our leaders read from the same script every year, saluting our democracy and predicting a bright future. The question is this: What hope is there for thousands of Jamaicans who are unable to reap the so-called dividends of democracy? Should they feel confident that politicians have their interest at heart?
A thriving economy is the only thing that will bolster democracy. And people who are hungry, landless, jobless and who feel that they are the subjects of injustice cannot participate in this democracy of which we so glibly speak.
For many, real wages and living standards have not improved in the last decade. And if one is to judge from the number of elderly and young persons seeking help, it is obvious that poverty is growing.
Why do I care, one may ask? Because I know of the struggles of so many who are trying to get by - such as a man who rides his bicycle from Portmore to get to his gardening work in Kingston at 6 a.m. and works throughout the day before getting back on his bicycle to make the return journey home. Then one night he is knocked off his bicycle and robbed of his day's earning and his cellphone. What kind of hope can his family have in the future?
Many people do not agree with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's grading of her Government's performance during the last 12 months, as they note the absence of a timetable for the structural reforms so badly needed to secure a better future for our country.
Yet, as I think about it, I feel there is something that each of us can do. How about dedicating 2013 as the year in which we buy local? Think of the glow for local producers if each housewife decides to buy only locally grown food for her family? Think of the balance-of-payment benefits if we were to stop importing tamarind from Thailand, avocado from Mexico, or pineapple from the United States?
Yes, the 'Eat Jamaican' campaign has been tried over and over, with limited success. It's a cultural thing to us liking anything that is foreign. As we contemplate a new arrangement with the IMF, we have been correctly warned that it will not be a panacea. Country-proud Jamaicans need to understand that we have it in our power to change age-old tradition and chart a new course.
Dennie Quill is a veteran journalist. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.