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Columns

Chicken back and slave food is not culture

Franklin Johnston

Friday, January 18, 2013    

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Portia Simpson Miller needs our support in a common cause, and differences aside, no one should come here and diss us — we are family!

We were a brand before half the nations in the UN were formed — respect due! The recent Cabinet retreat is no joke and we need good outcomes. I am not prepared to discard Portia to the scrapheap of history — at least not yet.

So 2012 was assessment; make 2013 action. She must unveil her team to showcase the prosperity plan. We must do things within our grasp and not bitch about things we can't afford. The budget is all taken, so it is hard to get innovation into a ministry unless it is studied and funded by some foreign agency — time frame four to seven years.

After, because we take so long to spend the money, it is obsolete. Life happens, and if you use people's money you can't set terms. Guess what? Some loans to the Government in the 1990s for priorities are still not spent!

Do you know even things that do not work are hard to change? Innovation has to join the line for funding behind failure. Posts are vacant but you can't put the cash to good use. The minister cannot move a teacher from a school with 10 students in a class (there are hundreds) to one with 50, as the law does not permit it but he is accountable!

An eight-year project is inviolate even though the reality has changed. We institutionalise mediocrity by inflexible rules and little "tin gods". We need organisational dynamite to blow things up. Precedent is valuable but past failure cannot guide our future.

The big lessons we learn from the last 50 years are that good intentions do not prosper a nation; that you can copy institutions from abroad to no avail; and "almost" is never ever on the winner's podium.

I affirm the troika appointed by Cabinet to fast-track projects. It goes against my grain, but I suck OCG salt and applaud it. If bureaucracy is impervious, bypass it. I will not see the promised land because of inept leaders, but by God I will fight so my children do.

It now seems corruption in bureaucracy is more heinous than corrupt, transient politicians. The civil servant who said I should "slow down" as "it might be done next year" is cruel. I was livid but respectful "but it affects 85,000 kids". She shrugged her shoulders and walked off in her tenured job. I am almost beginning to feel sorry for our politicians -- almost.

Cabinet needs a retreat about food. We cannot prosper unless and until we achieve food sufficiency. It is one thing we can fund and work at. The cavalier attitude of Cabinets to food shows why we are poor. We import some US$1b in food. This is their doing and they can change it.

Ministers sign waivers and can cancel each as we grow more food. Do they? If they wish we can be food-sufficient. Do they care? This is my grandchildren's legacy. Blood. Roger knows we can be 80 per cent self-sufficient in carbs plus some flour and rice. We drain the St Elizabeth morass — why? These thousands of acres of natural flood plain can grow rice.

Ask China for help, stupid! We can grow 80 per cent of our protein, so give livestock farmers the incentives importers get. I hear sugar production and import targets, so give me those for chicken, goat, hog, fish, yam, potato, etc. Why not? We need a food czar to void import waivers in sync with local supply and cut imports in half by 2016.

We grow vegetables; who farms watercress? I have a protein bean salad recipe for Roger too. We need a Ministry of Food -- 90 per cent of our agriculture is food — to take us to our food targets. Portia must now put this "love of the massive" to work for the nation. Show us the goal, we will score.

The best predictor of the future is the past. We normalised mediocrity in education; we made persistent poverty and poor urban transit the norm; workers think high productivity is not normal; our leaders feed us chicken back as normal, and quality is a goal few achieve.

We buy hundreds of containers of chicken back monthly. Our Cabinets willingly, wantonly and wickedly compel us to buy foreign frozen bones when we can grow farmyard fowl. Corruption? We are so disrespected, they say we like chicken chassis.

Portia, end this abomination. We can't build a nation by embracing the minimum as our norm. Chicken back makes your kids dumb and is the enemy of good wages. It's your human right to eat chicken meat. You are worth it!

Why are wages low? In collusion with your butt lazy trade union they calculate worker needs on chicken back. Cultural satraps tell us that foods foisted on us in 50 years of degradation is our culture -- Bull!

Your MP does not eat chicken back — boycott it. Cabinets condition us to slave food — salt fish and salt mackerel; epidemiological disaster is now on us, high blood pressure, diabetes, lifestyle diseases. The trick in statecraft is to mess with tobacco which business controls but ignore the harmful substances Cabinets control.

Minister Ferguson spends billions for drugs while his colleague minister issues deadly food import waivers; joined-up government? -- one kills, the other cures, we pay! Why arrest people for ganja? These food imports kill you dead. Jail slave food pushers. Lock up Cabinet. If workers continue to eat chicken back they will be paid chicken back wages. Selah!

A Commodity Exchange (CEX) may build farmer confidence, aid food production and marketing if Cabinets back it with processing capacity. Every farmer has a cellphone. The food czar can receive crop, water, weather and harvest reports, triangulate cell locations and update central food stats weekly.

We are a small country with big brains; we can track every yam head planted. Food metrics must be published every week. The graph shows up decline of import trailers and growth of export ones. The old AMC is a non-starter, as with technology the czar does not have to see product.

I sent photos of a rash by BBM and my doctor diagnosed and prescribed. We can harvest food intel electronically, aggregate by location, crop, quality; buy, sell in an exchange. Uncertainty kills investment and certainty is crucial to a farmer. I believe we can do it. It's up to Cabinet. Stay conscious, my friend!

PS. I apologise to those who need a dictionary to read my column, on behalf of your parents, teachers and your lazy self. Do I know you? Why blame me because you can't read English?

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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