Which Jamaica do you live in?


David Mullings

Sunday, December 02, 2012

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Over the years I have come to accept that people believe that more than one Jamaica exists. It all depends on your social class and what you choose to soak up from the media.

A number of people believe they live in a Jamaica where many things are simply out of their reach and will continue to be because of mismanagement, corruption or uncaring authority figures. They read about lack of resources, unemployment even after getting a degree, low performance of schools, a stretched health-care system, and crime. They see poverty every day and understand the struggle to afford the necessities.

Some are more comfortable and focus more on their daily routine that has them encountering window washers on the road and little children begging or selling something in a parking lot. They don't worry too much about crime but they are still very cautious.

They do not think things are as bad as the media make them out to be, but they do dread the next light bill from JPS. They are also concerned about health care because they cannot afford to fly abroad for certain treatments that are either not available or have long wait times in Jamaica.

Then we have those Jamaicans who are less worried about crime or lack of resources because they can afford to build a higher wall, hire private security or travel abroad for treatment if they get sick. Crime and its causes are less of a concern, they see poverty when driving through certain areas, and ultimately may understand the precarious position of the country based on a downturn in business more than what is in the media.

I recently spoke with a friend about the lack of substantial investment in Jamaica, especially foreign direct investment that is so critical to the growth of small developing countries. We discussed some of the factors that investors would be looking at when comparing Jamaica to other countries.

Depending on which Jamaica you live in, you will prioritise the issues differently. Labour productivity is a real issue in Jamaica and that comes from both education and discipline issues. There are Jamaicans, however, who see no discipline problem and certain behaviours are instead excused as survival tactics. The rule of law can be ignored if you need to provide for yourself.

Others try to point out that while the murder rate is high -- a potential turnoff -- most of them are gang-related and so Jamaica is comparable to a large metropolis in the US, not this murder capital as it is portrayed. It is only when crime hits close to home that most people really call for change.

Then we have regulations and the many hoops to jump through. Business people have been lobbying for decades to improve the environment they operate in, but there are other Jamaicans who complain about the lack of jobs and local investment, ignoring the impact of regulations and long processes on the desire to create or grow a business.

At the end of the day, we must ensure that we do not only look at Jamaica through our eyes but seek to understand how various other groups see the country, thus getting a clearer picture of what really must be done to holistically improve the country.

Each group has their own issues but they must make an effort to work for the good of the entire country and not just advancing their narrow interests because there is ultimately only one Jamaica, despite which side you see.

David Mullings was the first Future Leaders representative for the USA on the Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board. He can be found at facebook.com/InteractiveDialogue and Twitter.com/davidmullings




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