ONE of the reasons that Government arose among men and endures, is the need to maintain order within a tribe or nation and prevent or repel attacks from outside. Otherwise, civilisation wouldn't be possible.
Man left to himself readily degenerates into disorder and corruption, so there must be something outside of him to restrain him. Scottish philosopher and economist David Hume said in an essay, Of The Origin of Government: "Order in society, we find, is much better maintained by means of government; and our duty to the magistrate is more strictly guarded by the principles of human nature, than our duty to our fellow citizens." Hume said this in the 18th century, but his observation is still relevant.
Throughout the ages, Government itself has been a source of disorder within and without a nation, but so far, in general, government has proven itself superior to each man left to himself in maintaining order.
Without order within and the means to repel disorder from without, there is little possibility of a nation achieving economic success. The most economically successful countries are those which prevent or reduce crime at home and discourage attacks from abroad or respond swiftly with retaliation whenever attacks arise. Countries such as the United States, Great Britain, and Canada are called First World countries not only because of the standard of living they afford their citizens but also because of the order they maintain at home and their ability to repel and discourage attacks from abroad.
The situation is different for other countries. They have less or no economic success. But they usually have higher crime, proving that economic backwardness and
crime-share a symbiotic relationship. They are called Third World countries.
This is why as many countries pursue economic success they also pursue peace at home -- their plan for success is a plan to reduce or eliminate crime as part of success. Jamaica seems to be a different case. Though it knows the imperative of reducing crime to experience economic growth, it isn't moving with urgency to reduce crime. It seems to be taking crime fighting in its stride; for the government and many leaders seem to think that as the economy improves, so will crime and violence decline. But the reverse is the case.
I dare say that the main reason for the persistent economic backwardness of Jamaica is crime and corruption. Like parasites they're sucking the lifeblood of the nation, rendering it unable to rise up and move forward.
Professor Anthony Clayton of the University of the West Indies, in a report prepared for the Ministry of National Security, called A New Approach: National Security Policy for Jamaica, said last year: "Other estimates suggest that the cost of crime to Jamaica may be significantly higher. For example, Ward et al (2009) estimated that the direct medical cost of injuries due to interpersonal violence accounted for nearly 12% of Jamaica's total health expenditure in 2006, while productivity losses due to interpersonal violence-related injuries accounted for approximately 4% of Jamaica's GDP. If the latter is added to the estimate of security costs by Francis et al, then the combined total is 7.1% of Jamaica's GDP."
This is a clear indication that the Government is aware of the effect that crime is having on the economy of Jamaica. But where is the urgency in fighting crime since the PNP came to power over a year ago? It seems to be business as usual. Take for example, downtown Kingston, location of some of the most violent and impoverished communities in Jamaica. It is argued by many people in and outside of the Government and in the ghettos of downtown that it is the economic impoverishment of the place that has caused the crime and the violence, and that with the return of economic opportunity, the communities will begin to recover. I disagree. To me it is the abysmal crime and violence which have driven business from downtown Kingston and continue to postpone indefinitely the return of any prospect of economy recovery.
The ghettos in downtown Kingston are crying out for businesses to come and set up and invest so that people can get jobs and elevate themselves out of poverty. But with the crime, who is going to risk his life, the lives of his workers and the destruction and theft of property to set up shop there? Which foreign investor is going to pass over relatively safe places such as The Bahamas, Cayman or Barbados and risk his life to come and do business in downtown Kingston? So Jamaica finds itself in this dilemma; the very thing it needs to pull itself out of suffering, is the very thing it repels by its behaviour.
What plan does the government have to begin to reduce crime in downtown Kingston except to increase police and soldiers when things get "too hot"? It has none, because it has none for the nation. Last month National Security Minister Peter Bunting told the Jamaica Employers Federation that crime remained the leading obstacle to growth of the Jamaican economy: "This has an impact on investor confidence and I don't need to tell you about the impact it has on the cost of doing business in Jamaica and more generally, just eroding the quality of life," he said.
But has that admission galvanised the minister and the Government into putting in place measures to finally restrain the murderous impulses of many Jamaicans? Mr Bunting at that function said that the plan he has to fight crime is to "put more boots on the ground" — more soldiers and police. Jamaica needs more police and soldiers, but putting "more boots on the ground" will not begin to reduce crime, for part of the crime problem in Jamaica is some of the "boots on the ground," as the minister calls them.
But why should Mr Bunting and Mrs Simpson Miller and the Government care about reducing crime in downtown ghettos, for example? They don't live there and they're shielded from crime in Jamaica, guarded by taxpayers' money when they go about their business and when they retire to their fortresses ay night.
It is sad that with so much potential and so many human and natural resources, Jamaica slips further and further away from the economic and social success that it can produce and which it so desperately needs, simply because those who lead it sit back and wait for things to get better on their own.
Ewin James is a freelance journalist. He lives in Florida.