It is easy to be distracted by the circuses while "Jah kingdom goes to waste". When a storm is coming we are told what category, when to expect the eye, and what to do. Who is our IMF weatherman? The deeper we go into crisis the less we know. What's the plan and our part in it? If we take no ownership can it work?
Right now the IMF seems Peter's business alone. The collective responsibility index is low. We were fully briefed on the athletics in Russia. Why can't the IMF scorecard be updated weekly? Publish the targets for ministries, civil service, the economy and track it like cricket. My greatest fear is not that Cabinet will oppress us with taxes, etc, but that they will be populist and do nothing. Inertia is a great force, and our tragedy is not that we failed but that we did not really try. We need a blow-by-blow update on taxation, pension reform, etc -- show us the effects and let us cheer success.
The first IMF test is here. Cabinet seems cocksure; business smug and comfy. Which MP had meetings to brief his electors? The first test is easy. The second IMF test will be the first real test. We have been belt-tightening, so when will "bitter medicine" begin? l was more involved in World Champs than in our IMF deal. If Portia says "we need 50 points by the next test"; if Roger says "we will cut rice imports by 25%, but Trelawny yam will take the place to give us 10 IMF points"; if Omar says "this fare rise will remove 'x' liquidity and get us 3 IMF points," or if Portia says "buy 30% less chicken back and use local rabbit and lamb for 15 points" would you hoard chicken back? Why can't Cabinet break it down for us? What sacrifice would you make to get us out of debt?
We must also think out of the tax box. What about a property tax surcharge on second homes? Or land tax plus 30% on a house that's empty for two years? Clearly you don't need the income. Put 25% more tax on commercial property empty for a year? Giving a young family or entrepreneur a cheap home or office is better than to lock up properties; land tax plus 50% on farmland with irrigation water idle for three years? I do not feel Cabinet in this IMF crisis. This affects all Cabinet, but only Peter speaks up? Where are ministers and MP's in public education?
JOBFAIR 2013: History was made when the Ministry of Education decided to help jobless teachers find jobs in other fields. School boards employ teachers -- many are overstaffed but others do care. On August 13 the heavens opened, wind and rain lashed Heroes Circle, the hills misted and wreaked havoc on the small white tents that dotted the manicured lawns. This tentage for employers who had jobs to offer was swept away in full view of hundreds of jobless teachers who came "before day" -- twice the number approved. Secure parking in Heroes Park was a mud fest, tentage ripped, portaloos tipped. The Western undercroft barely protected anxious teachers who saw their prospects blowing in the wind. Nature took charge. I thought the crowd would turn ugly, I lost that bet. A clutch of women bitched, but the ministry cannot walk on water. Apologies to all jobless non-teachers who were turned away, but "fi wi parson christen im pickney first!" The majority felt the spirit, said the opening "amen" and Jobfair 2013 went to workshops, while employers regrouped, though sadly many embassies cancelled.
Some teachers wore exquisite shoes, but all are not word perfect, have good taste or manners. So, after reviewing hundreds of dreadful letters, the ministry held seminars so they might learn that English, spelling, good writing impress employers and email tags as firstname.lastname@example.org do not. They were standing six deep on the fringes of the Western undercroft. The Eastern wing was intact, but the food people could not set up, and some employers left. The JP Group moved in tons of free ripe bananas, chips and did job interviews; the JDF, their equipment, men and women ready, interviewed hundreds for the officer corps. Sorry Police Band -- rain, no play! The crowd filtered from seminars to interviews across a jammed foyer. Teachers appreciated the effort, but it was messy. A few, annoyed at the weather, asked about the next Jobfair and suggested it be taken to the Regions. Damn good idea!
On Day Two the flooded lawns were "no go", but interview rooms were flagged on all buildings. Dozens of jobs were on offer and hundreds interviewed. Sandals' Joel Ryan and Cheryl Price were in the care of a crack MOE courtesy crew. When they broke for coffee at 8:30 pm a few top ministry people, awed by their work ethic and work rate, were brought into the excitement of the "Beaches" brand and its Sesame Street partner as employers of early childhood teachers across the region -- we were blown away! They threw us out and continued interviews 'till God knows when. Sandals, hero of the day! Jobfair 2013 was a success!
Congrats to the civil servants who had a dream; continue to innovate! Ignore naysayers, for as one wise man said: "No good deed goes unpunished." The ministry's support staff were royal, the teachers exemplary, and the teachers' union rep had inspired words. Workshops as "Reinvent yourself" or "Be a winner" did well. Many teachers now appreciate the flexibility of their training. The RGD offered birth certificates like guineps. Some teachers wanted to start firms and the companies registrar should be at all job fairs. Education is big bucks and some 40% is private. Much respect to employers, the heroes of Heroes Circle, community folk who aided in flooded roads. This is the Jamaican spirit Portia must harness and stimulate to lick the debt crisis. Stay conscious, my friend!
Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advisor to the minister of education. email@example.com