Business, Investment and Economics

My Two cents: What really is the purpose of the Economic Growth Council (EGC) of Jamaica?

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It doesn’t take an economics pundit to see through the fluff which surrounds the Economic Growth council of Jamaica. Its membership for one, right off the bat, tells you that this isn’t a unit seriously concerned about the ECONOMIC GROWTH of our country; but rather the LOOK of there being a special machinery in place for our economic growth. Let’s take an actual look at the council itself:

  1. Michael Lee-Chin, OJ Chairman, EGC
    Chairman, National Commercial Bank
  2. Ambassador Dr. Nigel Clarke Vice Chairman, EGC
    Dep. Chairman & CFO, Musson Group of Companies
  3. Hugh C. Hart, OJ Senior Partner, Hart Muirhead Fatta
  4. Patrick Hylton, CD Group Managing Director, NCB
  5. Noel Hylton, OJ, CD Noel Hylton and Associates
    Former Chairman, President and CEO, Port Authority of Jamaica
  6. Paula Kerr-Jarrett Director, Barnett Limited
  7. Pat Ramsay Cultural Consultant and Development Director
  8. Adam Stewart CEO, Sandals Resorts International
  9. Senator Kavan Gayle
    Representative from Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions
  10. Phillip Gore Owner & Executive Chairman of Gore Developments Ltd.

You’ll notice, for the most part, it’s nothing but a group of businessmen, lawyers and Investors. And if you’re wondering about Dr Nigel Clarke, he has a doctorate in mathematics (not economics). Another thing which stands out for me is the lack of youthful exuberance on this council. If it’s expected that the youth of Jamaica are to be the successors of any efforts coming out of this project, then why aren’t we represented? Where’s the young economics student to offer a different (and more contemporary) perspective to the discussions on growth? And if this Council is in place then what then was the purpose of creating a Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation? Aren’t we kind of repeating ourselves here? hmm

There are a few people in society today that I’m surprised weren’t tall enough to get on this ride either. Dr K’adamwe K’nife, lecturer of entrepreneurship at the UWI Mona and sustainable development specialist would make sense as an addition to me; Dr Peter Phillips MP, former Minister of Finance and Planning (who also holds a PhD in International Political Economy and Development Studies I might add), and the only man who could offer insight on our growth over the last 4-5 years; Dennis Chung, CEO of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica to guide offer insight on the structuring of that public/private partnership; Professor Trevor Munroe, Executive Director of the National Integrity Action (NIA) to advise the proper preventative measures for corruption control in the grand scheme of growth; and the list goes on.

What also concerns me is the overarching mission of this council with their “five in four plan” i.e 5% growth over the next 4 years. Is this even possible? Are they saying 5% cumulative growth by the year 2020, or in the year 2020 they expect to achieve growth of 5% after any given quarter? Below is a graph showing Jamaica’s economic growth trajectory over the last 4 years:

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As you can see for yourself, According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica on a quarter-on-quarter basis, the GDP expanded 1.6 percent. GDP Annual Growth Rate in Jamaica averaged 0.58 percent from 2003 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 4.30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006 and a record low of -4.50 percent in the second quarter of 2009. So if you really think about it, if they can replicate what was done between 2003 and 2016 and add 0.30%, 5% “growth” is possible. But will this really translate to socio-economic development? Rather, is this council AT ALL concerned with the socio-economic development of Jamaica or just boosting the numbers on paper? Because they are basically promising another 4 years just like the last 4 years (only a little bit better to account for the extra 0.30%). Is that what the Jamaican people would consider as growth?

A more believable approach to this would have been to extend the trajectory to about 15-20 years with a memorandum of understanding between the two political parties and civil society groups that just like the vision 2030 development agenda, this growth agenda would remain untouched. Notice also, that the current administration’s campaign for government was hinged on the promise of economic prosperity (growth) for Jamaica if elected. Also notice, that this 5 in 4 plan will conveniently conclude just in time for election season again? *hint*hint*

Finally take a look at the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) and the newly convened Economic Growth Council (EGC). Notice any similarities? Why did they recreate the wheel that was the EPOC instead of adopt and reform it? Why is the chair of the EPOC, Mr Richard Byles, not even an honorary member of the EGC? *sips tea*

I want to end my rant with a word of advice to the powers that be reading this and may be feeling uneasy with the revelations: get over yourselves. The growth and development of Jamaica Land we love should not be a tactic to retain power and/or boost the aesthetics of the party which forms government; but rather a social partnership between ALL stakeholders of Jamaica (Rich, Poor and Young ) committed to the long term agenda for economic growth and prosperity. I would also implore the EGC going forward, to dialogue with the youth of our country and get them directly involved in this mission for economic growth. After all, whatever progress or decline that comes from this initiative will be OUR responsibility as youth to carry on. So it makes sense to give us a seat at the table.

 

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Social Commentary

My two cents: Andrew Holness, the “Champion bwoy”

 

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Now, I had my doubts about Andrew’s leadership capabilities at first, just like everyone else did I would imagine. I mean, those undated resignation letters last year highlighted a very impulsive and arrogant opposition leader that I couldn’t picture as my Prime Minister. Then the general elections came along, and a transformation was made that I dare say is probably unprecedented in our political history.  Andrew’s image moved from being this stiff, impulsive, emotion-less juvenile politician to a very calculated, controlled, fervent and mature-looking leader whom consequently won the hearts of the Jamaican people.Upon victory, he proclaimed himself the champion boy, a direct reference the Dancehall artiste Alkaline’s hit single “Champion bwoy” which the electorate gobbled up cravenly.

He seemingly has also won over the respect and approval of his naysayers within the Jamaica Labour party, as challenges to his leadership these days seem to be a thing of the past. It’s still early, so we can’t say anything too conclusive about his leadership as yet, but the bangarang unfolding within the Peoples National Party (PNP) in recent months has definitely made him more favorable in the eyes of the electorate; a fact which his publicists exploit every chance they get.

He has made some good moves recently, I’ll agree; especially in delivering on some of his promises that we were anticipating; particularly his $1.5 million tax break. But there’ still a lot more that needs to be done before he gets assigned a passing grade. Public relations are on point yes, but that alone won’t translate into votes 3 and a half years from now. I’m still waiting to see how he will address unemployment (especially among youth) with more sustainable fixes and not another call center. I’m very interested to see how he and his economic council will handle the IMF programme which I might add was under excellent management by the former Minister of Finance, Dr Peter Phillips. Crime and violence in our country is climbing like a wildfire, and I’m eager to see the plans he has up his sleeve to remedy this problem. You see, being young, likable and good with communicating to the people is only 40% of the job. The other 60% is governing the country. Let’s watch how he governs.

 

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Politics, Leadership and Governance

The PNP of today – the People’s National Poppy-show

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The People’s National Party of today, has become the People’s National Poppy-show; and everybody from green to orange to neutral can see it for themselves. Just a small disclaimer for your preconceived notions, I am not a die-hard Labourite or a newly recruited member of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) who is attacking the People’s National Party (PNP) for political points. No. I’m just a young person, who is concerned about what once was the leadership of our country. Now, from readings on our Jamaican political history, it was quite evident that this was once a movement meant for the upliftment and progression of Jamaica land we love; putting all petty things aside to achieve this overarching mission. But the recent happenings over the last two years have left me in a state of bewilderment; and it leads me to wonder if these people really know what they are doing. The JLP  being the underdogs for the last 2 decades have actually proved themselves over the last 7 months, and they must be credited for their style of politicking.
The current leadership of the PNP is the worst I have seen in years, and there is evidence to support my harsh words. Madam Portia Simpson Miller (PSM) and her senior counterparts have significantly  dissolved the trust and respect comrades and Jamaicans alike once had for the party, with effortless grace and style. Values of integrity, accountability, transparency, unity and decency have been demoted to mere talking points to get the crowd going at a political rally; but we seldom see these values being put into practice.
As a young and neutral enthusiast of Jamaican politics I have to question Madam PSM’s integrity when I see last year during the pre-election period, her Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson and fellow comrade almost run the Health Ministry into the ground and escape any sort of retribution fitting for  failed ministers. In fact, because they are such good comrades she gave the boss another Ministry to do a wonderful job with; presuming the Jamaican people would return them to government. Her arrogance as well during the political race, and the immaturity and mediocre political strategies employed by her team leads me to wonder again if this is a group of people who know what they are doing! All predictions from political pundits suggested beyond reasonable doubt that PNP had that election in the bag, but it was the wit and decisiveness of the JLP that gave them the extra inches in the race to clinch it.
Now, fast forward a few months post-election, and they seemed to be humbled and in a state of reflection and planning. But no one could avoid the bangarang caused by the former MP and State Minister of Entertainment and Tourism the Honorable Damion Crawford and two seniors in the party, General Secretary Paul Burke and especially Senator Dr. Angela Brown-Burke. What a hot mess! Husband and wife attacking the adopted son of the PNP, who was and still is arguably one of Jamaica’s most beloved young politicians. It was distasteful and eye-opening to see the bitterness and tension that existed between the young and old of the party. That is probably when the Poppyshow begun, and I think we’re in for a few many more episodes because this story line doesn’t seem to be climaxing any time soon.
And then there is now, this campaign finance scandal that the PNP seniors are actually trying to justify. It is corruption, CO-RRUP-TION; and I think they are still so caught up in their arrogance that they can’t seem to realize their wrongs. Norman Horne, the former PNP Treasurer, is a hero of democracy for releasing those reports, because wrong is wrong and right is right; despite the color it is dipped in. This is why our governance is so slow and retrogressive compared to other nations with even limited resources than us. This thinking that there is a place for corruption and dictator- style politics is how you erode a democracy, not preserve it. And the JLP is not innocent of corruption either; in fact they are probably worse.
So, here’s my advice to the PNP: fix  your leadership if you want to move forward. Madam Portia Simpson Miller has been an incredible stateswoman and her contribution to Jamaica’s politics and development is unprecedented, and we appreciate her for that. But the fact is, her time has passed. The “Mama P” superwoman appeal she once had with the electorate has now been replaced by an old, stubborn grandma afraid to pass on the baton to the next generation. Dr Karl Blythe needs to have several seats also, because by no means am I implying he is the alternative. Youth, in the party like Lisa Hanna, Julian Robinson, Raymond Pryce, Damion Crawford and Dayton Campbell to name a few are the fixers the party needs and I can almost guarantee that if they are given a chance to make magic happen, it will. I’m not suggesting however that all the seniors be packed into a coaster bus and sent to retirement, but there needs to be a more equal blend between the young and the old. With that sort of structure, it invites new ideas and perspectives to contend the traditional ones and this is how they will create the contemporary solutions their party needs. Lastly, the bangarang and passa passa between old and new generations needs to end; indefinitely. Michael Manley must be begging Jesus to send him back after seeing the Poppyshow his PNP has turned into. Come on comrades, you all know and can do better than this.
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Politics, Leadership and Governance

Will Juliet get Slam Dunc’d? or will Romeo come to her rescue?

BeFunky-Collage-735x400Who would have thought that fairytales had a place in Jamaican Politics? Just when you think you have seen or read it all, something like this happens that reminds us we haven’t. I reckon that this race for East Rural St Andrew between Senator Imani Duncan-Price and wife of the Opposition Leader, Juliet Holness will be one for the history books. I think both women are poised to do extremely well in their bids, win or lose.

I must applaud Mrs Holness for her courage, as it must take some serious grit to want to contend for one of the biggest constituencies in Jamaica; and traditionally one of the hardest for either party to get a hold of. Being a first timer to the arena of representational politics, this must be a lot for her to digest in one gulp I’d imagine. Imani has something of an advantage one would imagine, having served in the Senate for over three years now, and having a political stalwart like Dr D.K Duncan as her daddy, mentor and manager in this process.

But I caution you not to see Mrs Holness’s seemingly empty track record as any indication that she’s unfit to win, or let alone lead the constituency. One thing  I’ve realized about our politics (and it’s probably the same anywhere else in the world) is that we have a lot of geniuses working behind the scenes of these big political parties. I’m talking the brains and tacticians behind these fancy candidate campaigns, and my research has led me to conclude that Juliet Holness is one of these people. Look at Andrew Holness, and how quickly he climbed the ranks of the Jamaica Labour Party, to become second in line to the then Prime Minister Bruce Golding. Not even Audley Shaw stood a chance against him, being the more seasoned politician that he is.

But it wasn’t Andrew’s doing alone. No, he must have had someone close in his corner that kept him in check, believed in his bold pursuit of power and invested in his holistic development to get there. He had his Juliet, and together they climbed up the ladder boldly; with she behind him in the background ensuring he doesn’t fall to his demise. This will undoubtedly be Mrs. Holness’s biggest marketing strategy; that “behind every strong man there’s an even stronger woman” card that will have all of East Rural St Andrew fall in love with her magic. If she plays her cards just right, she could give Mrs. Duncan-Price a serious run for her money.

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But don’t expect her Romeo to be of much a help to her now that the tables have turned. If he could give himself completely, I am sure he would but not while trying to get Jamaicans to buy into his Poverty to Prosperity campaign. He will need to give his all the next of couple months if he is to stand a chance against ‘Mama P’, and Juliet understands this. With Mommy and Daddy so busy, I just hope their sons have a good nanny to play substitute parents in these coming months.

 

But what about Stephen Price? The Husband to Imani whom I hope is preparing to be involuntarily lunged into the spotlight very soon. Will he be of much help to his wife in her bid for power? Or has he decided to hold down the fort while wifey’s out fighting a war? Will the birth of baby Selah Price in July 2015 be a hindrance or support to Duncan-Price’s chances at victory? Only time will tell.

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Regardless of the support each has, and will be getting, this constituency is guaranteed to be a marginal win. I mean here are two beautiful, strong, successful mothers and wives whom will be fighting to convince the East Rural St. Andrew electorate that each is different from the other in a better way. People might say Mrs. Duncan-Price already has it in the bag because of her support system in the PNP (inclusive of the incumbent Damion Crawford), her flashy international resume in advocacy and business or the Miss Jamaica World title she copped some 20 years ago. But Mrs. Holness is a wealthy woman, having made her fortune being a realtor on the international housing market and many would say prosperity is definitely on her side (and embodied in a 300 million dollar mansion). It begs the question therefore, will the people of East rural St Andrew choose to prosper with Juliet? or stay the course with Imani?

Bottom Line: What will really matter now is how well each candidate connects with the constituents between now and Election Day. There’s a large cohort of objective, smart, YOUNG people registered to vote in this constituency that are just waiting to be wowed so the candidates must exercise serious caution in the promises they make to them. These people, if encouraged properly, will represent the swing vote; so getting their endorsement will mean making a strong and effective first impression and setting ambitious, realistic and inclusive objectives for the constituency. Take it from me, I’m one of them.

 

– G.B

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Business, Investment and Economics

Has the Current IMF program furthered your right to an Education at the Tertiary Level?

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Is the current IMF program making it any easier for you to pay for your degree? Do you think it is making the cost of pursuing a tertiary level education any cheaper? In the negotiations happening now, do you know how much effort our government has put into ensuring education is a priority of the program? For all intents and purposes, this analysis will be carried out in reference to the University of the West Indies Mona and the extent to which access to a tertiary level education at this institution has increased since the dawn of this new IMF program.

In a January 2012 Article article entitled ” IMF Talks result in Greater Understanding of Priorities” published on the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) website, it was reported that the major issues in our economy at the time included a reduction in the primary surplus of the central government that was targeted for this fiscal year, and a rise of the overall deficit of the public sector. This, after the PNP administration restarted the conversation with the IMF following their victory in the 2011 general elections to negotiate a new deal with the Fund pursuant of strong policies that would enable Jamaica to address the risks posed by both the global environment and the worsening fiscal realities.

In a May 2013 article on the International Monetary Fund Website (IMF), entitled ” IMF Loan to help Jamaica cope with Growth and Debt challenges”, it was underscored that Jamaica’s very high debt undermines confidence and investment and that the new program will boost growth and jobs, lower debt and improve competitiveness. The IMF’s executive board had extended the arrangement to Jamaica with a loan of JMD $932,000,000 to further the objectives of this new program. The IMF’s mission chief for Jamaica, Jan Kees Martijn, in response to what he considers to be the key priorities in Jamaica for the Fund and the government and the role he envisions for the Fund beyond financial support in promoting these measures, said that adjusting policies to lower debt to a sustainable level and establishing the conditions for durable growth will be the requirement for building a prosperous future for Jamaica. However, it was made clear that the program does have a social welfare component which speaks to the protection of the most vulnerable groups in society (youth in this context). The extent to which these vulnerable groups are protected is the question we are trying answer.

Mr Martijn posited that the new program includes a range of measures to improve competitiveness and the business climate, so that Jamaica can attract investment and create jobs, as well as training opportunities to assist the migration from welfare to work. He went further to say that a second element of the program is requiring a floor on social spending to make sure that it is given priority even when the overall room for government spending is limited. The government, He said, also intends to increase the number and targeting of beneficiaries under the Program for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATHE).

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In a June 2014 article entitled ” Prime Minister Says Growth and Employment Highest Priority” published on the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) website, Prime Minister, the Hon. Portia Simpson Miller says stimulating growth and employment is the highest priority of the Government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), at this time. Madam Simpson Miller reports that the progress made in the first year of our program (presumably January 2012 – January 2013) include: upfront fiscal consolidation and reform; several structural initiatives aimed at improving the business environment and restoring external price competitiveness; while strengthening the social safety net. But does the social safety net here speak to the educational opportunities afforded to Jamaicans at the tertiary level (with reference to UWI Mona)? Specifically, has this net been strengthened such that more Jamaicans can exercise their right to access a tertiary education from the State?

She went on to emphasize that stimulating growth and employment is, at this time, the highest priority of both the Government of Jamaica and the Fund. From these reports, It can be deduced that while the program is successful thus far in meeting the targets it set out to achieve, the social welfare of Jamaicans has been made less of a priority behind lowering unemployment and stimulating economic growth. With 80% of most SME’s (Small and Medium sized enterprises) failing in the first 5 years of operating and a national unemployment rate at 13.2% (32% of which is youth unemployment), one can understand the need to prioritize these issues in the program. But what we need to now ask ourselves is what of the statistics on enrollment at the University level? Are they significant enough to build an argument for a greater focus on improving access to a tertiary level education?

According to the enrollment statistics produced by the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona , over a 5 year period (2009-2014) enrollment into full-time and part-time first degree programs has averaged at 11,358 students. According to Education Statistics produced by the Ministry of Education for 2012-2013; 84,847 students were enrolled in secondary school who were between 15-16 age group; and in the 17-19 age group only 32,697 students were enrolled in secondary schools. Cumulatively, 117,544 students were enrolled in the secondary school system between 2012-2013.

With reference to the enrollment statistics produced by the UWI Mona for the year 2012-2013, only 12,105 students were enrolled into the institution. So of the 117,544 students eligible for matriculation to the tertiary level that year, only 10.3% made the cut to attend UWI Mona. Is this acceptable? What of the other 80.7% students eligible to read for a tertiary degree?? Have they been appropriately placed in the other tertiary institutions island-wide? Collectively, do these other tertiary institutions have the absorptive capacity to enroll that 80.7%? Has our government done enough so far to afford more students that right to higher education? Essentially this is saying, approximately 1 in every 10 Jamaican youth in 2012-2013 had a chance at exercising their right to higher education at UWI Mona.

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The fact that the current IMF program fails to produce a positive surplus in our economy affects our government’s ability to contribute more to subsidizing tertiary education than they currently can afford. At present, the Jamaican government allocates a total of JMD $5 billion yearly to UWI Mona, which is intended to subsidize 80 per cent of fees students pay to attend the institution. The issue however, is that this amount has been frozen for some time amidst rising costs to operate the University due to externalities of the same IMF program, such as rising inflation rates. Therefore, we see a unique relationship here which explains the extent to which the Jamaican government can actually further the right to seek a tertiary level education at UWI Mona. Your ability to pursue a degree at UWI Mona hinges primarily on the extent to which this IMF program can yield a surplus to aid in advancing our development agenda.

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In the interim, I would suggest to our government that they look to establishing a stronger social partnership with the private sector to offer more assistance where tertiary financing is concerned. Create internships for students in a particular field that will allow them to work part-time with a select firm in the private sector while increasing their ability to finance themselves through university. More public-private partnerships such as the recent housing development between the National Commercial Bank (NCB) and the UWI Mona should also be encouraged in other areas such as facilities upgrading and student mentorship. Firms need to understand that creating that intimate relationship with your customer before they have the purchasing power, is how you create a loyal customer base for the future. Finally, I want urge Dr. Peter Phillips and his team to aggressively advance the notion that greater access to tertiary education should be a priority of this program, and is equal in status to lowering unemployment and stimulating economic growth.

  • G.B
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Social Commentary

Fenton must Go, no second chances!

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I find myself seriously questioning Madam Prime Minister’s competence with this recent decision she has made to keep former Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson in the leadership of our country after the HOT MESS he has left our Health Care system in. Clearly, the PNP administration is not intent on securing another term in office by keeping Fenton in politics. It is an absolute insult to the intelligence of the Jamaican citizenry to allow a man, who has declared publicly that the lives of those premature babies who died under his leadership did not matter, to still have a hand in deciding how our country ought to be run.

If unemployment rate stands at 13.2% as of April 2015, 32% of which is Youth Unemployment, then why should we now trust this man to manage our Labour and Social Security?? Is it that Labour and Social Security is an easier task than Health Care, so it is presumed therefore that he will manage? Does Fenton possess some hidden skills in human resource management that could assist in lowering our unemployment rate? Madam Prime Minister, please enlighten us. HealthministerspeaksE201410

According to the Office of the Prime Minister, Mrs Simpson Miller made the Cabinet changes after listening “to the recent discussions and expressions of concern, some of which could have the effect of distracting from the very important focus of economic and social reforms”. Correct me if I am wrong, but is this implying that our economic program is more of a priority than the health and welfare of Jamaican citizens? And could we not infer from this that it is possible our resources have been limited in it’s distribution to the Health Ministry over the last 4-5 years, to meet the demands of this tight economic program?? just some food for thought.

Madam Prime Minister must have been privy to the rate at which our healthcare system was deteriorating over the last 4-5 years; assuming our government is as transparent as the Jamaican constitution would expect them to be. I believe these 19 babies that died as a result of the system, are just a small fraction of the thousands that have died in the last two decades due to negligence of our government. We only know of 19 because our media houses lack the capacity to keep track of every tragedy. If the parents of these deceased babies are wise, they will proceed to file a civil lawsuit against the state for their gross negligence of the Health Care in our country; which has led to death of these babies and many other before them.

For the record, I am not trying to make the Opposition party favor any more in the eyes of the Jamaican electorate, and this is not a stunt to discredit the PNP in light of the election season. Get your hopes down Mr Holness, this is not a gift to you. But I believe wrong is WRONG, and right is RIGHT; and what you have done Madam Prime Minister in allowing Fenton to stay is WRONG. Dr Ferguson ought to be dismissed from public life indefinitely, not given a second chance. If those 19 children cannot receive a second chance at life, I do not see why any mercy should be extended to him.

In light of these revelations about our system, I have to wonder: Is Jamaica on its way to manifesting its vision of becoming the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business?? How do we pretend to be excited about living and raising our future families in a country that neglects the standard of healthcare provided to its citizenry? How do we stay optimistic in finding employment after formal education when our current economic program makes no room for a surplus to be achieved; essentially stifling the growth of our economy and keeping unemployment either static or growing? How do we participate in a political process that continues to serve the interests of the party in power and not the interests of the people at large? Sighs…

  • G.B
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Social Commentary

Jamaica’s Emancipendence: Deconstructed.

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Every year on August the 6th, I wake up to the same hullabaloo on social media wishing Jamaica a Happy Independence! I find it so ironic how people will hate this country for 364 days of the year, but for this one day, “We and Jamaica a fren”. I’m not saying we should hate Jamaica though, nor am I insinuating that our celebrations of the last 53 years as an independent state were a waste of time, I just hope that amidst all the celebrations today we at least reflect on what our “Emancipendence” really means. In preparing for this article, I found myself seriously dwelling on the expression, “Emancipendence” and what it truly means for us as Jamaicans. What are we emancipated from? and how independent have we been since 1962? I think the answers to these overarching questions are really what will measure our Emancipendence; not how much Ms Hanna decides to spend on this year’s Grand Gala celebrations.

There’s a popular and controversial school of thought among academics that developing states such as ours were never really given independence when we made our bids in the 20th century, but rather a false sense of freedom to keep us under control. It goes further to assert that slavery never really ended, it just evolved from the physical plantation model to the mental plantation model. I am actually inclined to agree with this view, and even extrapolate this evolved model of slavery to also include a social, economic and political component as well.

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For all Jamaicans to feel emancipated socially in our society, then ALL JAMAICANS ought to be privileged to the same rights and protection under the constitution of Jamaica. Sad to say this is not the case for a number of minority groups; case in point: the homosexual community. Homosexuals have been a part of our society for the longest time, and it is now since the dawn of the 21st century that we see them putting their foot down as a group. Maybe this is them piggybacking off the surge in support coming from our North American “Big Brother” the USA, but the fact is they have established themselves and are now challenging our cultural status quo to be given full inclusion in the fabric of our society. Will this ever happen? Will they ever be able to live without the stigma of being an “abomination”? Will the majority of our people ever accept them as a part of the nation? Will our government ever make the right amendments to policy that will give them that power to feel emancipated? Most of you might be thinking this is highly unlikely; which is not an unusual response given our current social norms and values. To further investigate this case study to show the social limitations of our Emancipendence as a collective, let’s look at socialization and the four main agents that drive socialization in Jamaica: Jamaican Music, Family Structure, Christianity and Jamaican Politics. Until our Dancehall and Reggae Culture desist from “bunning out ba**yman”, the majority of our people will always have a resentment towards them; because our music dictates our lifestyle. Our Family Structure and Religion have a mutually symbiotic relationship where each helps the other. Our Families help our Churches to justify the word of God by existing in accordance to the Bible’s teachings, and more importantly to channel the word to the youngest of our society; while our churches teach some fundamental values of life that are invaluable and critical to the strength and growth of families. Until the dynamics of this relationship decides to change and make allowance for gay aka “unorthodox” family structures to have a seat in the church, and have a right to receive the message and apply it to their families then they will always be seen as “abominations to God”, and by extension outcasts of society. Jamaican Politics is the easiest of the three to rationalize because, all these politicians need are our votes. The truth is, none of them are running elections to introduce new ideas for change, but to continue feeding the current appetite of our people. It’s a simple equation: the more satisfied the people, the more votes the politician gets. Why would any logically thinking politician upset this wonderful system of “serving the people” by challenging policy to make way for greater inclusion of the “abominations”?? As Vybz Kartel would say, “Do di maths, Asian Brain”.

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Economically, there are so many local pointers to say that we are not emancipated as yet which would trick a lot of Jamaicans into believing it is the government’s fault. While the government is not innocent in this crime against our humanity known as Poverty, which seems to be never-ending, to me they are merely pawns in a bigger chess game. The real culprits here are the lending agencies and NGO whom we have so graciously invited into this land we love to help us; the IMF being the biggest of them all. The IMF’s goal as an organization, taken from their website, is to “foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty”. How peachy. In our last 53 years as a country working with the IMF, how much of these goals have truly manifested in Jamaica? I get that yes we are an independent state and these are problems that our leaders should have direct responsibility for,  but if the IMF given their composition of first world country leaders ought to know better than us, then why have I not seen a more concerted effort (with the exception of recent times) from these leaders to guide how their loans are spent by our occasionally incompetent leaders? That’s because they don’t want us to spend the money properly; because spending the money properly would mean us actually achieving some of these goals and slowly advancing ourselves to a first world status. For the stakeholders of the IMF and the other lending agencies to maintain their first world status, third world countries like Jamaica must always be in a debt trap. We must always be poor, always developing and always need more money to continue developing, for the IMF to stay relevant and powerful. This is the shackle that has enslaved our economy; this constant need to borrow from the “powers that be” to better ourselves. Until we borrow and put the money to good use once and for all, this cycle will continue for years to come; and our economy will continue to be a slave to the IMF.

Our bi-partisan political culture has significantly hindered our ability to be free for the last 53 years as an independent country. The system I have no qualms with, and objectively I think it has immense potential of working in our favor. It’s the people and the culture these people perpetuate within the system that has caused our regression. Jamaicans are just too loyal to these politicians, so much so that some would put their lives on the line for their political party. That ignorant and narrow-minded mentality prevents us from seeing the potential in great ideas irrespective of the political party it’s coming from, because we’re blinded by colors. If you think you’re really free then ask yourself who has paid your bills for the last decade? Who has sent your children to school? Who determines your opinion on national issues? Who determines your vote? If YOU aren’t the answer to all of these questions then your “Emancipendence” might be all in your head my friend. Liberate your mind, and stop allowing these politricksters to control how you think.

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Despite my arguments to deconstruct the flair and excitement that is surrounding Emancipdence in Jamaica, it still does not negate the reality that we are an independent Jamaica, emancipated from 400 years of physical slavery. That is an achievement we ought to be proud of as Jamaicans, and use that achievement as a comfort to know that we have come a far way, but we have an even longer way to go. So, today my friends celebrate your “Jamaicanness”; cook up your Ackee and Saltfish with roast Breadfruit; and turn up the volume to Bob Marley’s One Love for the community to hear. But during all the excitement, just remember who YOU are, where WE are; where WE were and where WE want to be. 

– G.B

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