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Jamaicans bemoan joblessness, crime and violence - Portia gets F for promises made at swearing-in

Published:Monday | October 12, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Some of the hundreds of Jamaicans who turn up at the Ministry of Labour whenever there is an indication that workers are needed for the overseas employment programme.

A significant number of Jamaicans polled by Bill Johnson in September cited joblessness and crime and violence as the most pressing problems facing the country at this time, a 10-percentage-point increase over those who held those views last year.

The findings of the latest Gleaner-commissioned Johnson poll show that 49 per cent of Jamaicans believe that unemployment is the number one problem facing the country at this time, two percentage points more than the 47 per cent who echoed the same sentiments in September last year.

Ninety-nine per cent have listed the two areas as the most pressing problems facing the country at this time.


Failed to grow economy

Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw told The Gleaner yesterday that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has reneged on "every promise made at her swearing-in ceremony in 2012".

Said Shaw: "In 2012, the prime minister pledged that her Government would improve the standard of living, reduce poverty and increase jobs. On all three counts, she has the letter 'F' for failure, because poverty has increased, unemployment, though coming down, is not at the 2012 level yet and because of the savage devaluation (40 per cent) of the Jamaican dollar, the standard of living has fallen."

According to Shaw, the entire Government has failed to grow the economy and, despite passing International Monetary Fund (IMF) tests, there has been less than one per cent growth in recent years.

The continued joblessness, according to People's National Party (PNP) General Secretary Paul Burke, is one of the reasons for the poll findings that show Simpson Miller's favourability rating dipping to unprecedented levels.

World Bank data last month indicated that the unemployment rate stood at 13.2 per cent, with youth unemployment nearly three times the national rate at 38 per cent,

"We accept that there is an economic reality which has taken toll on the party, its president and prime minister. This is about our eighth year of recessionary type of economic constraint," said Burke, as he said the party was not surprised at her unfavourable ratings in the polls.

However, the big-ticket item of crime continues to be the Achilles heel of the Simpson Miller administration.

It is the area which has seen the biggest jump, to 41 per cent of those who say that crime and violence was the biggest problem facing the country at this time.

Last year, 34 per cent said that was the biggest issue.


Approaching anarchy

Opposition Spokesman on Crime Derrick Smith said the nation is approaching anarchy with 16 of 19 police divisions showing increases in crime, including murders.

Smith told The Gleaner yesterday that there has been a 132 per cent jump in murders in Westmoreland, moving from 34 to 79, up to Monday when compared to the same period last year.

"As we speak, 970 persons have been murdered since this year. In the last 14 days, there have been 65 murders. We are averaging four a day. It is not only frightening, it's approaching anarchy. The numbers speak for themselves; it is out of control," said Smith.

The country was last week rocked by the murders of six members of a family in Hanover in what has been linked to the dangerous lottery scam, which sees Jamaicans, and/or their agents, fraudulently obtaining money by telling victims they have won the lottery.

There are also claims that the murders are also linked to a family dispute. At least one suspect has turned himself in to investigators concerning the murders.

With crime now becoming widespread, with communities previously unaffected now witnessing heinous crimes, including murders, the viciousness of which residents say they have only read about.

Like former Police Commissioner Owen Ellington and his predecessors, current police chief Dr Carl Williams has been repeating the all-too-familiar phrase that no stone would be left unturned and the perpetrators caught.

Many remain elusive, and the fear of being impacted by crime has become crippling, pushing Jamaicans even further behind bars.

The lucrative guns-for-drugs trade between the criminal networks of Jamaica and Haiti continues to place illegal guns in the hands of criminal-minded Jamaicans.

Last week, a man considered to be a major player was killed in Haiti in a gun battle with police in that Caribbean country. The police in recent times have seized at least three large caches of guns and ammunition.

At the same time, 22 per cent of Jamaicans have added the lack of water as a pressing issue, up from five per cent last year.

The poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent, was conducted among 1,200 residents islandwide, from September 25-27, during the height of the drought which has been affecting the island since the start of the year.