December to remember
IN spite of all that we gripe about in the evenings at home, or talk about on the daily radio shows, Jamaica is still a very special and wonderful country. Yes, the land is beautiful, but that is not the aspect that still makes me proud to be Jamaican. My joy is with the people, the spirit and emotions that are wrung from you every day, but more so in December.
About seven years ago, I was in Washington, DC negotiating with a multilateral donor agency on behalf of the Caribbean for assistance under what was then the buzzword "capacity building" under that famous catch-all "sustainable development". We had reached very far towards the conclusion of an agreement when there was a change of leadership in that organisation, and in the usual manner, continuity was replaced by a "new thinking".
The new buzzword of the incoming president was "Corporate Social Responsibility", which to me was an oxymoron for an organisation designed to help poor countries. I asked them how they expected countries with no large corporations to comply, especially when most found it difficult to prepare basic accounts, much less conform to the rapidly changing requirements of the International Financial Reporting Standards.
Well, my query was not met with any intelligent answer and I left feeling that I had just become a victim of a mindless bureaucracy that was intent on kissing up to anything in order to keep their cushy jobs in highly secure buildings. The real world escapes many of those who are tasked with really trying to help the less fortunate, and the methodologies are entrenched.
The communities of the inner city that have been trying to improve themselves through their own initiative were extremely challenged by the harsh economic conditions. With some 130 students from the Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation in tertiary institutions, we found that some 18 bright young people were in danger of being delisted and would be unable to take their examinations.
Then in the midst of the gloom that faced me, the true Jamaica came through like a blaze of sunlight. The ScotiaBank and the NCB foundations came to our assistance, as did other companies and lawyers in the downtown areas. Schools did not delist the students based on the credibility of GraceKennedy saying that we would pay them, and so all students sat their examinations and the pure joy and stress relief were obvious in their faces.
But this goodwill is by no means peculiar to this situation. Every company, large or small, is doing something to help during this month in particular. The service clubs, churches, freemasons, mayors, politicians, the custodes of the respective parishes, hotels and everyone you can think of is reaching out to the less fortunate. This also includes efforts by schoolchildren who go out to serve and entertain, and generally make life more bearable for the indigent, aged and immobile persons.
This is the Jamaica that gives me hope for the future and joy in the present. The capacity of our citizens to love and do right seems to surface in this month of Christmas activities. It seems almost strange to notice that the spirit cannot be maintained for the whole year, and that is a greater challenge for us than the other difficulties facing us.
A united Jamaica could ignore the dictates of the IMF and strive to solve our problems by just co-operating and pulling in the same direction. We are a talented people with a capacity for good, but we have an inclination to do the wrong things in the name of selfishness or, for some, political partisanship. If we can accept these things and tackle them with a seriousness of purpose, every day could be Christmas for us in this little country.
Since we face the dictates of others at this time, I urge the agencies that come to our assistance to evaluate the concept of the carrot versus the stick. The continuous beating, restrictions, and sanctions have had very little positive results over the past 40 years, and perhaps there is still room to have an open agreement that binds all of us to positive directions in productivity and growth.
That is my challenge to the Government, Opposition, the IMF and other agencies this Christmas, and I ask them to invent a new buzzword that will become a game changer for this beautiful little country that has so much potential residing in our people.
Have a peaceful, happy and joyous season, and good health and good sense to all Jamaicans for the future. At least we can smile, even in our darkest hour. One love, one heart.