Ronald Mason, Contributor
Rise, Jamaica, rise. Hope springs eternal in the human breast. The stirrings of life. The green shoots signal that a harvest will be available for tomorrow. All of the above are on my mind.
I am optimistic, as I see a path to be explored that should lead to improved prospects for my country. This has been long in coming. However, on July 31, 2013, a single occurrence made this day possible.
The event was in gestation over 40 years. Though it has not had universal acceptance by signature, but in deed, this has made all the difference. It confirms that there is more that we have in common than that which divides. At last, we have a path to act in concert for the good of us all. History and the people must be unrelentingly harsh on anyone who would damage the prospects for success.
One learns that "the National Partnership Council, chaired by the prime minister, compris[es] representatives of the Government, Opposition, private sector, trade unions, civil society, academia and special interests". This body came into being on July 31. The platform has been created to discuss national issues and foster collaboration and concern. This was historic in independent Jamaica.
No one excluded
Membership in this Council carries significant obligation and even heavier responsibility. This broad-based representation assures that no one has been excluded. All are charged to seek collaboration on the critical matters related to the country. They must arrive at consensus, and demand shared sacrifice. Of note is that it is not necessarily about equity in sharing, but demands buy-in from all.
At last, though the current Opposition has not signed the agreement, they are fully participating in the process, reportedly at the highest levels. Congratulations to them - a big, but incomplete step.
The Council finds its validation in a membership that reflects strength. It is chaired by the prime minister, not the Office of the Prime Minister. This is important, as there is no room for lack of meaningful participation at the expense of deliverability. When consensus is achieved, the seriousness of their role will be displayed in the implementing strategy.
It is expected that the work plans, subsidiary targets, timelines and the frequency of meetings will become very integral to their success. We the people must keep them under a watchful gaze. We the people must accept the concern, even though our pet project might be downplayed. We the people must work hard at implementation. We the people must delay the instant gratification.
What has failed for more than 51 years will take time to halt, redesign and redirect for success. The impact on the ground will offer hope. This will be motivation for the national good and for the forging of a new society. The serious issues of this time should be at the forefront.
Each member of the Council has access to its agenda. There are no items off the record. However, the members are charged to determine priority on a national scale, not on narrow, sectoral bases. It is exciting just to think of the national issues that should be placed on the agenda to be vigorously debated and for them to receive appropriate treatment.
The best of plans, concerns and interests will fail if we do not have an implementation agenda. Budgetary allocations must be honoured, even as they reflect reality. The temptation to marginalise Cabinet, Parliament and constitutional processes must be resisted, because also inherent in your deliberation as a National Partnership Council is the fact that we are a democracy, imperfect as it tends to be from time to time. While this is not a panacea for all, the Partnership Council is a good first step.
There is a parallel development which also currently provides another rung on the ladder of success. We have growth in the last quarter of 2013, GDP of 0.1 per cent. Negligible, but still growth. The logistics hub is on the front burner. The leadership question of the Opposition will be settled in a week.
We still have pockets of excellence in the society in the form of bright minds and institutions. Sorry, Wolmer's, but Ardenne must be acknowledged and congratulated. The new library at Campion College speaks well for the future. The Caribbean Maritime Institute has teamed up with high schools to make logistics a preferred area of study.
I continue to be optimistic about the future of Jamaica. Bills are being tabled in Parliament, not through our own, but in response to pressure from the IMF. They are vital pieces of legislation. What is more important is the fact that the issues need to be addressed.
Let us welcome the theory that now all will be viewed equally and should, as a consequence, be treated equally, not receiving waivers according to ministerial whim. We will be taxed in accord with known, published standards and rates. Are we at last to have the same treatment for all taxpayers? I am optimistic.
The police have a thankless job to be done under trying circumstances. I applaud those worthy of such applause, but I take liberty to single out one officer: Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, formerly in charge of traffic. He has retired. Always colourful, forthright in speech, understood by all. Job well done, sir. Enjoy the future.
Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney, mediator and talk-show host. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.