Editorial | How can we fix the Government?
When it comes to solving societal problems ,there is a growing sense that our politicians have failed to define the challenges and, therefore, have not been able to develop the requisite strategies to tackle the big problems that are shaping the 21st century.
The best example of how governments have shown their incompetence is in the deteriorating national security situation. This newspaper has dedicated yards of space to facilitate discussions on how to restore Jamaica to its peaceful past, particularly in the rural communities which are being ripped apart by gunmen. Everyone recognises the problem, yet crime and violence continue to hobble the country.
In the classroom, we have failed to prepare our students for global competitiveness. Even after tweaking and reforming and repositioning the education system, we continue to turn out illiterates, and not enough of our graduates have been equipped with the tools to help solve the big problems that confront the country.
And it is not only in national security and education. It holds true for every sector where there are challenges and which this, and every other government, has vowed to fix. From healthcare to the environment and agriculture, we appear to take a few paces forward only to slip farther back in a short time.
Take praedial larceny which has been the bane of the existence of the country’s agricultural and livestock farmers. A few small steps which have been taken have proved to be no deterrent, so the knee-jerk reaction is to ‘name and shame’ these thieves. Good idea, perhaps, but the police must first apprehend these criminals and place them before the courts.
We approach the 60th anniversary of Independence lurching from one crisis to another – economic, security, environmental, agricultural. This is what has forced us to call into question the problem-solving role of the Government. It has caused us to consider what it would take for our political leaders to put partisanship to rest and stage an earnest debate about how to fix particular pressing problems. Our ambitious wish is that emerging from such a debate would be concrete steps to be taken to achieve these objectives.
COLLECTIVE NATION APPROACH
From as far back as 2016, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck acknowledged the litany of problems facing Jamaica and suggested that right-thinking individuals should think outside of the box to find workable solutions. He called for a collective national approach. Minister Chuck was on to something because there is now a whole industry dubbed the ‘solution economy’ where businesses, government, foundations and civil society are talking about how to solve problems, and they are finding out that problems are interconnected.
One thing is clear, these problems cannot be solved using the 20th century toolkit which has been exhausted by past administrations. Another thing to acknowledge is that problems will not go away, even if they are ignored. So, today’s tiny pothole will become tomorrow’s crater.
Jamaica and the rest of the world is reeling from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Often, it boils down to how resources are allocated as each problem is weighed and measured against competing interests. The result is that a road which urgently needs fixing is ignored, and the purchase of garbage trucks is placed on hold. These interlocking problems continue to simmer and then everything comes to a boil in protests, demonstrations, strikes – a full-blown crisis.
So, is government cast in the wrong role as problem-solver? Should government simply concern itself with creating the environment in which problem-solvers are nurtured and can flourish?
We urgently need problem-solvers to repair our broken nation. It is only then that we can truly realise our ambitious vision to be that place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.