Heaven help us
Ronald Mason, GUEST COLUMNIST
In 2006, bipartisan support blossomed, and then in 2007 we set forth national aspirational hopes. It was published as Vision 2030. The targets that it contained were all stated as being achievable, but we have not made the kind of progress one would have expected.
Integral to the achievement of the targets is economic growth. The growth must come from the private sector. If the sector is to grow and create the jobs, wealth, tax revenue and stability, they must accept challenges. To date, they have, sadly, been missing in action.
With the exception of the financial sector, they have all underperformed. The hardships experienced daily with the macroeconomic restructuring are quite apparent, but this has not provided the opportunity to grow the economy beyond the paltry 1% of gross domestic product per annum.
The cry has been that the cost of energy, the bureaucratic challenges, and the limited availability of skilled human resources are all obstacles in the way toward growth. This is acknowledged as impediments, but more relevant is the attitude of the decision makers in the 'private sector'. A captive home market of 2.7 million will provide for a return on investment that is acceptable. If the enterprise is one of margin gathering, the leaders will be able to indulge in the profiling that is so obvious.
A lack of forward planning and reinvesting for growth in return for conspicuous consumption is preferred. Why does Jamaica have to be measured by the per-capita basis, the leading purchaser of automobile, the Audi? Why are the financial lending institutions all vigorously competing for the auto loan, while getting financing for a business venture is equivalent to pulling teeth? Why do we have so little in-house entrepreneurship from farms to processed, finished consumable goods?
The decision makers are cowardly. They have no faith in their country. A foreigner once told me that there is an aspect of Jamaica that is at once our blessing and curse. We are too close to North America. It fuels our consumerism and yet is too big a limitation on national development. You decide which is the benefit and which is the curse.
Think of the real estate developers not investing in the space for information technology, as the returns take too much time to realise from rental/lease. There is a lot of speculative investment in upscale housing that may be flipped two or three times between the approval of the plan for construction and subsequent occupancy. How does this lay a foundation for Vision 2030 development?
The ineptitude that pervades sectors of government is well documented. Herein lies an example. A property has been subdivided, a passage through hell all by itself, and upon approval, the property tax for each parcel is to be paid. On attending the tax collectorate to do so, it is noted that the splinter titles area have been subtracted from the adjoining title, not the title from which the subdivision was effected. Total confusion. More to come.
The National Land Agency assures all concerned that this is so complex, it will take the equivalent of an act of God or a well-placed 'incentive' to correct. Result: months of delay in the satisfying of economic demand for the lots. The Companies Office of Jamaica, which is part of the Ministry of Ineptitude, otherwise called the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, with a comatose or nearly so minister, has not been able to fully implement the one-stop, one-day registration of an entity. New Zealand completes a similar function within hours. Have we heard anything from the minister on the logistics hub recently? The Ministry of Health still has hospitals issuing prescriptions with medication the pharmacies say have not been available for months. Let us sing in unison. Heaven help us.
The public transportation system is implementing a new fare structure, yet one is still to hear of the planned subsidy that is required for us to provide adequate service. The very nature of urban transport, with peak travel times and concurrent demand, necessitates service late at night and the areas to be serviced are demanding of a government subsidy. With the advent of flexitime and the accompanying demand, where is the rational conversation on the link between transportation and workplace demands?
What of the responsibility of citizens to keep their immediate surroundings and communities cleared of brush and clean? Where is the civic pride? Opposition, what is your duty in all of this?
NEW TOP COP
We have a new commissioner of police. Selected, moulded, polished and presented as the most qualified, but only slightly over the sole female candidate. The telling endorsement is that he is "squeaky clean". What is to be interpreted from that label and the fact that goodies are made available in the form of forensic vehicles, almost simultaneously with the appointment, with more goodies promised. Could there be an accurate interpretation that the new commissioner is their man in the office. You decide on those to be included in the use of 'their'. Let us all sing, Heaven help us all.