Ja has not progressed much in 50 years, says Seaga

BY H G HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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JAMAICA has not progressed much as a nation after 50 years of self-governance, former Prime Minister Edward Seaga has said. Addressing editors and reporters at the Jamaica Observer's Monday Exchange held at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters, Seaga — who served as prime minister from 1980 to 1989 — said that gains had been made in only a few areas, and much had not been achieved to allow the economy to breathe healthily.

Quizzed whether or not Jamaica had much to celebrate as a nation after 50 years, the outspoken former prime minister was forthright in his response.

"I'm the worst person for you to ask that, because I have spoken on this particular topic so many times, and written on it, that we made one step forward and taken one step backward," Seaga stated.

"It is true that we have four areas that we have done well in, and they are easily identifiable — the music industry, athletics, tourism and mining — those are the four highlights.

"But the economy is worse off, the justice system is worse off, the education system is worse off, so how do you balance that out?" asked Seaga.

Admitting that all was not lost to set the island's affairs right for the next 50 years, Seaga said that much work and commitment had to be put in for Jamaica to achieve tangible results over the next half-century.

"Quite frankly, there are things that have to be done to put those things right that we have to do in this next 50, because if you don't do that I don't know what will really happen to the country," said Seaga, who serves as Chancellor of the University of Technology and distinguished fellow at the University of the West Indies.

As for the songs in the spotlight for 'Jamaica 50', which have resulted in controversial 'bells' being sounded, Seaga said that a public opinion poll could have been used to determine which of the two would have been seen as better by a majority of Jamaicans.

"When I did it as festival songs, we ended up doing an islandwide Carl Stone Poll to select it. Well, as you know, that is not happening now, it has been a little bit of a disaster," he said.

As for the broader list of celebrations to commemorate Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence from Great Britain in 1962, the former Member of Parliament for West Kingston said that not much was happening.

"I am still waiting to see what is going to be on. I would like to have seen something distributed, publicised, that this is going to happen on this day, that day etc, etc, and this is the programme for the period ... I can't find that programme."

A former minister of development with responsibility for culture, Seaga admitted that despite his vast knowledge and experience in the area he had not been consulted by organisers to assist with the festivities.

Asked whether he felt slighted by his non-inclusion, he responded: "I would like to have had an input, but the way things went I believe it might have made it uncomfortable."

One of the legacy projects for Jamaica 50 is to establish a sports museum, but Seaga, also head of the Premier League Clubs Association, said that a museum, while a good idea, was not as important as other projects needed to be implemented at this time.

"There are all kinds of things that you can do, but I pragmatically want to deal only with the ones that are able to give you some immediate results," the elder statesman argued.

"A sports museum is wonderful, always is, but it's not going to put any more boys on the field, it's not going to send away anybody else (on professional football contracts).

"It's all very well to make that an objective. For Jamaica 50, I would have much preferred to see something more tangible that has a direct relationship.

"The thing should be like an upside down ice cream cone, where we are moving towards that key point at the top, but you can't branch out because ice cream dripping off here and off there.

"It's not a bad idea ... it's like saying you want to put a stadium in every parish; that's nice, and I don't know about you, but I might not be around when that comes about," Seaga said.

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