In speaking with a friend about my column last week titled 'We must be optimistic' it was clear that I am not the only person looking for positives in the current circumstances Jamaica is facing.
In that piece I said that "capital has traditionally been lazy in Jamaica, seeking out government bonds paying high interest rates instead of seeking out investment opportunities in businesses" and it is my hope that more start-ups will materialise, thanks to more available funds from investors.
This by itself would be a big upside because Jamaica desperately needs the economy to grow, as everyone rightly points out, and clearly the old way of doing things has not brought the desired growth, so something must change. Another major upside, however, is the fact that the general population will definitely be more attentive now.
It is no different from getting on a bus. As a passenger I can choose to buckle my seat belt and then ignore the style of driving, confident that if there is an accident I should be protected. I can also choose to pay attention to the driver, the risks he is taking, and the route being taken to reach the destination.
If I see that the driver is being reckless, then I can speak up, and if the route is wrong, then I can tell him. If I am not paying attention, my seat belt may not save me when the inevitable happens. Of course, one passenger alone will probably not get anything changed, but when enough people speak up the driver is bound to listen.
In real life, the country is the bus, and thanks to democracy, the passengers can change the driver multiple times and force the bus to change routes. This only works if enough passengers speak up instead of just tightening their seat belts.
The only way a country gets into the financial trouble that Jamaica now faces is if too many citizens constantly turn a blind eye or excuse poor performance and even mismanagement over decades. It is already known that many eligible voters have stopped voting in elections and this could very well be the catalyst to getting them back into the fold.
The lack of accountability at many levels and in different areas has directly contributed to every problem we face today. From issues within education to crime; from the burdened justice system to financial issues. If the majority of citizens were focused on governance and value for money, then those in charge -- either the ones voted in or those appointed -- would have had a much tougher time in taking Jamaica to where it is today.
Now that the party is truly over, as signalled by a second debt exchange in just a few years, the population is bound to be more attentive, and that can only be for the better. A more attentive citizenry means that projects undertaken by government agencies will be far more closely scrutinised, the way money is spent, including the expected return on investment, will be closely watched and it will be harder for unwise expenditures to become a reality.
For too long we have been surprised to find out about the backlog in the court system, the conditions of children in State care, the deplorable state of some police stations, the lack of working equipment in the health sector, the funds wasted on projects, and so many other things that generate outrage for a short period whenever they come to light in the media.
Now is the time that I expect many more people to dig into the budget to see where exactly the money for different ministries is actually going and how it is helping Jamaica to turn around.
Hindsight is 20/20, and so it is easy to now say that the Montego Bay Convention Centre or the Downtown Transport Centre should not have been built. We could go further back and identify other expenditures which would have worked out better if steered towards education or improving the equipment of the police force. That is water under the bridge, but going forward I do expect people to be far more attentive when projects are announced.
I do believe that most people now realise the unsustainable road down which the country has been heading, that we must change route, and they now need to be looking out the window to make sure of the direction instead of burying their heads, buckling up the seat belt and trusting the driver.
David Mullings was the first Future Leaders representative for the USA on the Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board. He can be found at facebook.com/InteractiveDialogue and Twitter.com/davidmullings
The Montego Bay Convention Centre. It is easy to now say that it should not have been built.