Sat | Dec 3, 2016

The real drought

Published:Monday | August 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM

By Garth A. Rattray

Quite a few Jamaicans from the generation before me and some from my generation retrospectively find nothing celebratory about our Independence from Great Britain. They see our post-Independence nation as botched politics - a perpetual power struggle and battle for control of our scarce resources. Instead of using politics for the good of our people, some use our people to achieve their personal and political goals.

Consequently, although our country is suffering from an unusually bad drought (dry spell), this is not the real drought. Sparse rainfall, excessive heat, dying plants, diminishing crops, brown mountains, water lock-offs, a record number of bush fires and 'ripe-smelling' citizens pale when compared to the grim effects of our real drought.

Jamaica was once the 'land of wood and water', but it has become the 'land of would have water' (if only we had planned properly). In spite of the changing weather patterns and an expanding population, we have had the same reservoirs for decades, they have needed de-silting forever, and we have been losing a high percentage of our potable water because of leaky water mains deep in the earth all across the country, but especially in St Catherine.

The drought of the will to tackle the big and ever-growing problems has led to this water shortage. Successive administrations have artfully dodged the issue and kicked it on to the next set of people in control, and so on, and so on. And, we suffer because of it.

Furthermore, this drought (sparse rainfall) has come about, in part, because of a drought of forethought to save green areas and to replenish the trees that have been harvested for wood or sacrificed for housing and/or road projects.

There is also a drought of political will to have such a safe and efficient, islandwide public transport system that fewer people would need to purchase cars and add to the weather-altering heat and pollutants.

CAN'T SERVE TWO MASTERS

We have been experiencing the financial ill-effects of a drought of true patriotism - even at the administrative level. Politics demands that the individuals involved serve the needs of the constituents they represent. However, there is also a need for them to serve their political party. But no one can serve two masters equally, and sometimes the two are mutually exclusive. Sadly, the losers are often their constituents and the country.

Politically expedient decisions often result in disaster for the citizens of a country. A prime example was the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke debacle. Without his political clout, Dudus could not have so deeply ensconced himself in Tivoli Gardens. This led to some residents there daring to attempt a virtual armed secession from sovereign Jamaica. The disastrous outcome of that drama is all too well known.

Without Dudus' strong political connections, he would not have been so vehemently protected/defended by the sitting prime minister until the good of the many swamped that of the single individual. This drought of the social and political will to do the right thing led to the loss of many lives and international disgrace for Jamaica.

We suffer from a perennial drought of proper planning. Short-term decisions often lead to deleterious long-term consequences. Unrestricted imports are allowed while manufacturing falters and exports trickle. Easy solutions to complex problems are quickly implemented without consideration of the financial backlash awaiting our future generations.

Jamaica has been undergoing a moral (ethical) drought for many decades. Corruption permeates every segment of our society. In certain quarters, doing business requires that people play along or get left behind. Our drought of love and respect for our fellowmen has led to a culture of intolerance, selfishness and violence. People kill or have others killed at the drop of a hat.

We must attend to these other droughts or more than just crops will wither and die.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.