The impact of 2014
Ronald Mason, Contributor
There have been many newsworthy occurrences in 2014. Some have captured the headlines in a dramatic manner but have no shelf life or desirable impact on our country. Others will reverberate for some time to come.
In examining the reverberation, I find that easily the most impactful occurrence was the chick-V outbreak. This malady exposed severe weakness in the response mechanism of the health sector. The reaction was slow in coming, the severity understated, and the administration of the required relief non-existent. The accompanying confusion was an utter disgrace. There was confusion as to whether the treatment was adequate.
The Ministry of Health took the bureaucratic approach to reporting the effect. IF it was not confirmed by very slow lab results, it was not deemed credible. To date, there has been an inability to link the deaths that have occured, and continue to occur, to the virus. Still, much of our people do not believe it was a mosquito-borne malady. The greater lasting negative has been the exposure of just how nasty we keep our living environs. It is an utter disgrace and is likely to remain to facilitate further maladies as the powers that be are afraid to do something about it. The future brings trepidation as to the potential for very severe consequences. Cholera anyone? It is next door in Haiti.
The next most impactful news for 2014 has been the obsession, to the exclusion of all other governance initiatives, with passing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) tests. It is telling us that although we rely on the tourist industry for a lot of our economic viability, only US$10 million was allocated to the worldwide advertising of our product. We boast about passing the tests while we witness the strangulation of the other needs. The road network is abominable; the water supply distribution archaic. The taxes are high and getting constantly higher where now the law of diminishing returns has set in - but the tests have to be passed. The growth agenda has no credibility. The greater power protects the fools with a significant oil- price reduction, yet we still court social unrest. People no longer matter. The sacrosanct 7.5 per cent primary surplus is the Holy Grail. The econometric models suggest that the 7.5 per cent is the barest minimum that is expected to work. This justifies the lies, damn lies, and statistics that are fed to us daily. Help!
Mario Deane was murdered in the care, custody, and control of the Government of Jamaica through their agents, the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Since that fateful occurrence, there has been a surreal detachment by the Government of Jamaica. I have no information that the officer in charge of the Barnett Street Police Station in Montego Bay has been sanctioned in any way. Rather, some members of our society, least able to defend themselves, have been offered as sacrificial tokens. Mario Deane is all of us. It could have been any of us who would be alleged to have been less than respectful to and cooperative with the officer. This is what is reported to have played a role in his death. The constitutional right to life does not have any limiting clause as to the person covered therein. We all have the same right. The Government exists to enforce those rights and the police are to serve and protect. If this is how they discharge that duty, then we have been pre-warned.
The trial of the entertainer Vybz Kartel and his associates gave a graphic glimpse of the distribution of power and the application of power in the society. The learned judge, sitting in court, reflected the values, attitudes, and the knowledge base and vocabulary of one part of the society. The evidence offered up in a manner that reflected the life value and norms of another section of this same small-island society. "You lose my shoes', the euphemism, and the grace period to produce same is very short and the consequences for not returning same is rather terminal. Burn the house to remove the potential for evidence gathering. This led to palapably expressed sentiment that no person of worth was killed. The harsh, brutal exercises of power was an eye-opener for the part of the society not regularly exposed. There are at least two Jamaicas, and we are doing very little to bridge the divide. The ripple effect is being expressed in many ways and most clearly in the reaction to the Noise Abatement Law. Is compromise possible?
The downward trend in major crime is a story of worth in 2014. A most recent Don Anderson survey reported that 41 per cent of persons polled felt crime in Jamaica is a major problem. The reduction will redound to the benefit of all. Let us not be myopic. Until the cost of security is reduced to the business sector, we are not a globally competitive environment in which to do business. The politics of anancyism will not allow the politicians to resume hanging or build new prison facilities, yet they vote in Parliament to resume hanging. Cowardly action. The minister of national security must be recognised for his role in the new community-based approach to crime control.
This was the Year 2014 in review. Not a lot of positives when viewed in the prism of national development, but certainly a marker for how much more needs to be done.