Columns

Whose hand is on the wheel?

James Moss-Solomon

Sunday, October 07, 2012    

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THE 1950's song says: "Keep your mind on your driving, keep your hand on the wheel, keep your goofy eyes on the road ahead; we're having fun sitting in the back seat, hugging and kissing with Fred". Well I don't know who Fred is but the car I am in seems to have no hand on the wheel. I'm not scared, but I am concerned, much like my best friend Dr Aggrey Irons who was on a plane when the pilot announced: "We are at 20,000 feet, we have no permission to land, we are almost out of fuel, but the bar is open!"

This plane (Jamaica) is regrettably low on fuel but the bar is open and most persons have no idea of the risk of a forced landing, or a crash. The reality is that there is either an agreement with the IMF or there is none, and both have consequences that we have to be aware of in order to protect ourselves. We cannot put our heads between our knees and brace, perhaps the only benefit in that approach is that we can kiss our a... goodbye.

This is not a strategy; this is a cop-out and an attempt to blame our over-borrowing on the lenders rather than correcting our own behaviour. The Government says that the IMF is driving a hard bargain, the private sector sits back waiting, academia is really uninterested as long as universities get subsidies, parents want free education and freedom to have children they cannot support, and get unproductive jobs from the back of a 'Jeep'.

In the economy and the productive sector in particular, more attention is paid to the mendicancy of the IMF agreement, and no one speaks about export performance and productivity. The Prime Minister cannot defend the statement that she leaves the matters to the members of Cabinet as with only a few exceptions, they are in the back seat of this vehicle. Some don't know what to do, some don't wish to tell the "Empress" that she has on no clothes, and still others wish to see her fail.

The prime minister does not want to tell squatters on river banks that there is no money to send helicopters and firemen to rescue them. The love of the poor requires some revelation of tough facts about the financial ability to expand safety nets indefinitely. PM are you aware that women and men in this country showed your minister of national security that they rather the scam work in preference to honest work? The voters that you love and say you lead are in favour of unbridled dishonesty, and what do you have to say about that?

Over two years ago, I pondered in a column how long it would take for vigilante justice to rear its head. It is happening with frustrated mob justice in the face of the government's perceived inability to offer the good governance that protects law-abiding citizens. I say this because it is only a precursor to civil disobedience that escalates to the type of action taken by your hero Fidel Castro. This is called revolution, and rudderless, corrupt, indecisive, and uncaring governments across the world leave themselves open to this unpleasant, avoidable and unnecessary action.

There seemed to be no hand on the wheel during the recent rains in terms of mobilisation messages, central command about school closures, and it was left to parish committees without an effective mass communication capacity. Thank God it was only rain as if it were accompanying a hurricane then as we say "dawg nyam we supper". As the prime minister was away addressing the United Nations and others in North America, who was the "Driva", as we sang, "don't stop at all". This is a retrograde step in the face of previous experience going back as far as Hurricane Gilbert, and it exemplifies our unwillingness to learn from the past.

In the face of increasing rape, murder and other crimes against women and children, at last, marches and protests are gaining ground. The women of Jamaica have finally woken up as a unified group and not as party sycophants. I wondered when this would happen as it is essential to the change process. It is in this case a truism as "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world". Ladies, if you keep this non-partisan, then I will be right beside you.

I have said it before and I will say it again, I do not believe that the Government will summon enough courage internally to bell the cat in a way that will lead to a satisfactory IMF agreement before December. Perhaps they feel that delay and deterioration will get us some humanitarian sympathy like Haiti even as we drive expensive cars and rescue flat screen TVs from burning tenements. Come on, we deserve better than this even as we tarnish our so-called "Brand Jamaica". I have to think that the PNP needs to hold on to power even more than it is prepared to offer decisive leadership that may diminish their image of the "put people first" slogan.

The cycle of indecision and short-term decision-making continues, and the auditor general and the contractor general are overwhelmed by irregularities and potential corruption. The lawyers continue to argue that some politicians should enjoy diplomatic immunity in their own country. I have never heard that before and politicians in many countries have to obey the law. Diplomatic immunity is something honoured by foreign countries for non-resident ambassadors and representatives of foreign countries holding diplomatic status. Come on, the United States impeached their own president in the aftermath of Watergate, so how come Trafigura warrants a ruling from the Constitutional Court?

We are in the back seat of a vehicle that is accelerating towards a precipice, so stop wasting time. Let's find out who Fred is, get him/her out of the back seat and away from the seven girls who are so distracting. Jamaica needs decisive leadership.

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