Getting back to business

Friday, August 24, 2012    

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THE COLOURS are still up. Buildings are still dressed in pretty clothes. Utility poles continue to have wrappings of Black-Green-Gold. Independence weekend is gone, the Olympics are over, but we seem reluctant to surrender the party spirit and get back to earth. London one-two-three, that's where we were glad to be, but all too soon it is back to the old ways. We can't do without disharmony. So, even with the decorations still in place, we're revving up the engine for the resumption of business as usual.

Usain's birthday (Tuesday) went unnoticed. We didn't buy him a birthday present. After all, what do you give a 26-year-old hero who has everything? Yohan is being talked about not so much for his speed as his attempts at growing claws (aka fingernails). Asafa might as well not be here for all the attention we've paid to him as he arrived back home, looking ill and disheartened. Ah so we stay. Nobody wants to acknowledge a fallen hero. So what if he brought us glory in the past? If he's not on the winner's stand, we don't want to know. Shame!

Then, there are the growing strains of discord over what the country is supposed to have got out of its investment in the Olympics... apart from the medal tally. Expectations seem to be that after a mere two weeks, we should be reaping benefits. Since we haven't so far, then it is time for argument. It wouldn't be a surprise if very soon the "Beastly Boys of Gordon House" initiated another of the notorious brawls, under the guise of the nation's business. Don't be fooled by the lusty choruses of: "This is the land of my birth" and "Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love". It doesn't take much to gain re-entry to the Kingdom of Bangarang.

It is time to look at the returns from the substantial expenditure which public and private sector alike invested in promotional activities. We're ready to capitalise on the London Olympics. It is a perfectly legitimate objective and as such must be dealt with. The private sector must do its own accounting. For the government, it is even more imperative that the results be made known as clearly and as soon as possible, before mayhem and mischief take over. We don't need to remind the government that it cannot afford to gamble with the people's resources, especially in these times. On the other hand, we the people need to be realistic too.

IN THE FIELD OF TOURISM we are already anticipating a dramatic increase in bookings for the coming winter season - or do we have to wait for benefits to come later? The question is, if the crowds do come, are we fully prepared to fill their expectations? After all the hype and the enormous publicity we received in London, don't be surprised if visitors arrive geared up for non-stop fun to experience again more of the upbeat, carefree atmosphere which set London on fire. If we're serious, hotels had better invest more in professional entertainment. The old amateur-night presentations will not do any longer. Our food cannot be seen only in glossy magazines and TV shows and not in the everyday menus. We'd better get cracking. We have raised the bar and now we have to deliver.

In the public space, all our resort towns need a serious makeover (start with Ocho Rios). The dreariness cannot continue. Time to mobilise and encourage the real people, the ones who proved the naysayers wrong, to buy into the message "Tourism Matters" to sell the idea that we really are an exciting people and "fi wi Jamaica" is a great place to visit. Our visitors are going to demand respect, not exploitation. We've done it before and we can do it again.

The theme of any discussion now has got to show that we're not joking as we set out on the next leg of the race into the future which, in case you haven't noticed, is already here. Chat-chat won't get us anywhere, nor will timid leadership. The world is watching. If we want to fail, then we're on our own.

SQUATTERS DILEMMA: The removal of a group of squatters/homeless, from premises in an inner-city area of Kingston, has provoked controversy and brought to the forefront, once again, the age-old dilemma of who must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless. The needs are even more pressing when children are involved.

The challenge of how to deal effectively with squatting has never been resolved, despite years of talk. For a start, the right of property ownership is a thorny subject, but it will have to be faced. Often, owners who try to establish the rights to what is legally theirs are met with hostility. The tendency is to side almost exclusively with the occupiers who are seen as victims of past historic injustice and not people of a new time who should be guided to live with dignity and assisted to work to provide themselves and their families with shelter. Problem is, we're not seeing it that way, but instead seem content with encouraging the Victim-syndrome.

It is always a heart-breaking experience when an exercise like the recent one at Duke Street is carried out, but the challenge of this and similar situations will not be settled by divisive tactics. Nothing is accomplished.

ANOTHER STUBBORN ISSUE is the status of unused land belonging to the state. There are thousands of acres, which in the popular view, should be shared among the landless. Problem is, much of this land is far from "the front page", the heart of the urban areas, where everybody wants to work and live. Nobody wants to "Go back-a Bush", hence the crowded cities and towns.

People want to live where they choose, which means a need for public housing; this is not readily available but people still move in, and over-crowding continues. There is no easy answer. For the recently evicted people in Duke Street, assistance is being given to find shelter elsewhere, but that still will not be the end of the story. It is not a matter of turning those who have - not against those who have. Issues like employment for adults, education for the children are all part of the problem.

OH NO! NOT AGAIN! So, here we go, "backwarding to the future" with the same-old, same-old arguments about why our students are not proficient in the English Language. Spare me the sanctimonious reasons why Jamaican speech is the villain. This fixation and self-delusion about "English as she is spoken" would be all right, if English was not undergoing a global assault like everything else. American English is doing what it wants. They spell it BEHAVIOR, while the English-English hold on to BEHAVIOUR. Who's right? And what of social networking nu-speak? Are the examiners ready yet for C-U-L 8 R? (See you later).





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