Carol Narcisse, Guest Columnist
I have to thank Douglas Lindo of Bellindo Ltd. I heard him speaking on radio about what it has taken and will take for his business to survive in this extended recession.
Trust and relationship were the hallmarks of the formula he gave. Lindo said he trusts his team members and he engenders their trust in him. He engenders trust with his external stakeholders - customers, suppliers and creditors. In other words, he has been conscious that every single stakeholder of his business must be able to trust him and he them, or, simply put, 'it cyaah wuk'.
Key to building the trust, said Mr Lindo, has been conscious relationship building. He could not be aloof, secretive, unconscious of the needs and level of motivation of his team members, he said. He is open with the affairs of the company and he communicates, communicates, communicates. He knows that the quality relationship he builds with the team is in direct proportion to what they will be minded to reciprocate.
By his telling, trust and relationship building have been the means to successfully navigate life in general, and a difficult business life, in particular. Lindo doesn't stop there, however.
The Douglas Lindo model also includes being a good steward and manager of the resources of his enterprise. He said he plans ahead, watches his cash flow like a hawk, has in his arsenal not just a plan A but plans B, C, and D.
In ending the conversation with Emily Crooks and Naomi Francis, he exhorted all to take advantage of what we know to be true, that is, the strength, good and unpredictable capacity of ourselves - the Jamaican people.
I would highly recommend the Lindo model to us all, to the Government, and, while I'm at it, to the Opposition. Every single one of us must know by now and admit that the actions of our successive governments and our collective failure to exercise responsible citizenship have given us the results we are seeing in the country.
In contrast to the Lindo model, the model we have evolved has been one of governance by expediency, and a high tolerance for unconscionable waste and profligacy. In the current national model, doing wrong always has its justification, its reason for widespread acceptance.
Whether we like it or not, we the people would do well to take full responsibility for the results. We have participated in creating and maintaining the model of partisanship over national interest. We have been selective in holding governments to account and refrained from taking our people, party, group and governments to task.
We have operated in our silos without a care for what was happening or not happening in other sectors of the society. We accepted inequality, went right along with living beyond the means of the country, and rationalised not paying taxes. If we didn't like how things were set up, we rejoiced in beating the system and resorted to buying special favours.
We made waivers and a 'bly' our entitlement, 'eat a food' an admirable and sufficient ambition. We brought our special interest to the table to be served over and over again without a care for how disproportionately we were benefiting from the country's resources.
We accepted ill-gotten gains - the proceeds of unearned contracts, scamming, gun and drug trading as if accepting manna from heaven. Or, we kotched on the fence, turned off the local news and tuned out, thinking we could protect ourselves from the worst.
Well, here we are. 'Story come to bump.'
So what now? Shall we be content with feeling helpless and hopeless? Are we ready to declare an end to irresponsibility? Can we now make it our personal business to care about and know what's happening around us?
Will we all re-engage, ask questions, blow the whistle, find ways to offer suggestions and to take action? Can wrong be wrong, no matter what? Shall we all declare 'never again' and be serious about it?
We have to. There is no more room for fooling ourselves or hoping the difficulties will magically go away. For, no matter the accounting and legislative gymnastics, Jamaica will not have different results if we and our governments do not prioritise trust and relationship building; justice and mutual respect; good stewardship; honesty and transparency in our affairs and actions; concern for the needs and motivation of each other; equity in participation in every aspect of the country's development and balance in the distribution of its resources.
Governance by brinkmanship, fiat and dismissiveness will not get us to where we want to go. On the contrary, that approach, most recently practised by the Government with respect to the National Housing Trust and in its non-response to calls for a reduction in the size of the Cabinet as a symbolic gesture of shared sacrifice, is a sure recipe for continued national demotivation. It is a recipe for deepening mistrust and cynicism and it undermines the Government's call for national unity.
Responsive, open government
If there is to be any hope for a better future, what Jamaica will most benefit from is responsive, open, honest government that is committed to building trust and relationship with us. We have got to evolve a model of decision making that is constrained by law, is more deeply and genuinely consultative, long-term in thinking and solutions oriented - with thought for plans A, B,C and D.
We need to be engaged in a rational process of choosing, be given the information with which to assess our options, and enabled to make decisions on the basis of all the facts being presented and considered.
Our budget-making exercise would be a good place to attempt such an approach. Imagine, for example, if a forum of parents, teachers, students, employer groups, representatives of the Opposition and wider stakeholder groups were to be brought into the Ministry of Education's decision making on strategic direction and what to cut, keep and expand. Imagine if every ministry, department and agency convened a similar process.
Imagine as well if the process of decision making at every level of the society began with the question: What would be in the ultimate national interest?
I can hear you asking what is the national interest? In my view, that is whatever makes it possible for us to succeed as a whole.
In my view, the national interest is served when we do what is necessary to ensure the majority of us have a life worth living, have an equitable share, can have or hope to achieve independence and not be condemned to reliance on favours from politicians or any other group.
The national interest is served when the majority of us can access support to put creativity and intelligence to good use; can benefit justly from our labour; can live in, and act responsibly to maintain a clean, green, healthy, and safe environment where natural resources are conserved and preserved as much as possible.
The national interest is in altering the structure of our economy so that there is growth in opportunity for the largest sector - micro, small and medium-size enterprises, to expand, succeed and flourish. The national interest is served by investing in innovation, research and development and by backing such investments with incubators and venture capital.
It is in the national interest to live within our means and be committed to growing those means without recourse to corruption. We need just laws, standards and regulations and for these to be evenly and consistently enforced, to be subject to timely monitoring and evaluation, and to be improved based on evidence and transparent review.
We need strong, vigilant and vocal citizen groups; strong, vibrant and organised communities; and more leaders who lead with humility.
The national interest requires making rational, informed and often tough choices. We need the Lindo model of trust and relationship building, for in such a context difficult choices shall become less difficult to make and easier to take.
Carol Narcisse is a social policy researcher and chairperson of the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.