LAST week I focused on the fact that Jamaica had to help itself and could not only depend on outsiders. We must sink or swim ourselves. You can imagine my surprise this past week when I opened my inbox to see an e-mail from Douglas Orane with a copy of his recent lecture given in Harlem on October 19 as a guest of CIN titled 'The key to prosperity in Ja'. In it he identified three constraints to growth and presented solutions to be considered.
I am glad that Mr Orane, in speaking to the diaspora in New York, took the opportunity to present important facts and then propose some solutions. He said that low productivity has become such a normal part of Jamaican society that we no longer recognise it as a major issue.
The constraints he identified were political populism, deficiency in human capital development and the very high crime rate. I have previously spoken about the lack of political and social will to deal with the high crime rate, as well as how much of an impact it has on the economy (the World Bank estimated that GDP would grow by over three per cent if we brought our crime rate down to the level of Costa Rica).
I have previously spoken to low productivity and Mr Orane pointed out that GraceKennedy as a company was able to double productivity of their workers over a five-year period because GK "engaged all of our people around this common goal, and communicated in many different fora the purpose of it, which was to improve the quality of life of all our GraceKennedy employees".
The country can achieve a similar goal with the right leadership. The vision is there but the execution has always been lacking. Thankfully, there is already a move to shift more of the $70b spent per year on education towards early childhood education, the single most important set of years for a human.
Our spending has been upside-down for too long, and the poor outcomes, some 20 per cent of school-leavers achieving 5 CSEC passes including math and English, make it clear that it is not value for money.
Are we going to continue to stand for poor investments or will we finally, as a society, speak out for the next generation by helping them to access the strong foundation they need to help improve the country?
No Government can execute a vision without help. Jamaicans have been in love with populist politics for too long, and that is a big reason for the gigantic debt trap we are now caught in.
Unsustainable policies that exist because of foolish promises made by politicians seeking votes, and voters demanding the unsustainable spoils have put the country in a very precarious position.
It is time to start rejecting populist policies and promises. It is time to demand sustainable initiatives and investments. It is time to demand long-term thinking instead of rewarding/excusing short-term behaviour.
It seems that Jamaica weathered the recent storm, and my prayers will continue for all those who have been hit hard by wind, rain or flooding. A direct hit is never a walk in the park, but Jamaicans are a resilient people. Walk good.
David Mullings is Chairman and CEO of Keystone Augusta and was the first Future Leaders Representative for the USA on the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board. He can be found on Twitter at twitter.com/davidmullings and Facebook at facebook.com/InteractiveDialogue