Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Jamaica needs a firm commitment to good governance

Published:Thursday | November 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Jaevion Nelson

Is good governance still a priority of our Government? I can't imagine this is so, because despite their propensity to convince us they are committed to the principles of good governance, their actions continue to betray their many promises.

My dear friend Karen Lloyd, who assisted me with this article, and I are among many young Jamaicans who want the best for our country. We want a cadre of (transformational?) leaders who endeavour to make Jamaica the place to "live, work, raise families and do business". However, notwithstanding our desperate needs, we want to be assured that these leaders will respect the principles of good governance in doing so. And we want to know that where persons do not act accordingly, the relevant person(s) will take appropriate action.

To be honest, I am simply not sure our leaders understand the crucial role good governance plays in assuring us that we can, in fact, accomplish our ambitious goals for Vision 2030.

Over the last few years, their actions have been quite contrary to the innumerable utterances in countless speeches of a commitment to good governance. A market is erected without due process because there is a 'need'. The property - not the experience - for a tourist attraction is purchased because of its 'potential'. A major economic development initiative to build a logistics hub is being undertaken but not much is known about it, nor do we seem to be concerned about mitigating the environmental hazards.

Perhaps it is that we are reneging on our commitments to transparency and accountability, but you don't ignore rules and procedures because you think there is a need or some sort of urgency. I highly doubt that is how it works. If so, there wouldn't be a need for laws and policies to govern how we make decisions. Critical agencies such as the Office of the Contractor General and Auditor General's Department would be obsolete or without purpose.

IMPORTANT ELEMENT

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan reminds us "good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development". It means, therefore, that we cannot, among other things, ensure "Jamaicans are empowered to achieve their full potential" and the "economy is prosperous" while engendering a society that is "secure, cohesive and just" if we continue to treat with the issue of governance in such a frivolous way. I urge those transformational leaders that are hiding in the shadows in Parliament (I know you are in there) to challenge their colleagues on either side. Give us some hope, please. I encourage the appropriate civil-society organsiations to design a robust programme (for it must be a lack of capacity) to help us demonstrate our commitment to good governance.

What frustrates - or maybe sickens - me is the callous way in which successive leaders respond to these very urgent and critical issues and express disbelief that we do not accept anything they say. Do they realise we are long past the 1980s? That we are not the voters of the 1980s? We live in an information age and a time in history when many of us are literate.

HIGH LEVEL OF APATHY

What is shocking - or maybe not quite - in all that has been happening is the level of apathy in the society, particularly among people I went to school with. Where is our sense of collective responsibility to hold our leaders accountable to us as a government, supposedly by and for the people? Do we realise that we spend much of our time on bantering about and discussing people's personal affairs that have nothing to do with the disarray the country is in?

The next general election will be particularly interesting. I am eager to see how the matter of good governance will feature.

We cannot allow our leaders to make decisions and take actions however they so wish. We have to concern ourselves - even a tad bit more - with the state of affairs of our country. And when we do, we cannot allow our protest to die down in nine days. It is not enough to protest for just a couple hours or days. It is also not sufficient for us to merely vent and call for resignations. Many people and boards have resigned over the years and things remain more or less the same. We MUST demand more than just an apology or resignation to bring a state of order to our quandary.

Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.