Will this end that conspiracy?

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Sunday, May 01, 2016

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This column has been noting for a few years well, that Jamaica’s double-blight of low productivity and corruption has its genesis in a conspiracy. I have dubbed it "the conspiracy of mediocrity", and when I discussed this theory with several solid folks, a lightbulb goes off as they realise that they have been victims of said conspiracy.

If you have been shunned after you have made concrete suggestions to improve productivity at your workplace, if you have been sidelined after you propose new systems to ensure accountability and transparency, then you have been a victim of that conspiracy. Mediocre managers protect their corner by closing out anyone who may expose them.

What gives me hope that there could be an end in sight to this conspiracy is the announcement last week of the appointment of Jamaican-born billionaire Michael Lee-Chin as chairman of the newly formed Economic Growth Council. Lee-Chin has targeted five per cent growth in four years, and in order to achieve this, he will be taking a very close look at all the factors that could affect this outcome, chief among them being productivity and transparency.

Business leaders do not make idle claims – they assess and then they project. Clearly, Lee-Chin has seen the excellence of Jamaica’s prospects and knows that with keen planning and expert implementation, Jamaica’s economy can take off. Remember, he is the same man who decided to purchase the National Commercial Bank (NCB) after it languished on the Government auction block for two years. Not only did he save jobs, but he expanded the NCB Group to create even more.

Jamaica’s excellence is a veritable litany of music and other art forms, sports, hospitality, coffee, rum, ginger, and countless ‘firsts’. A few years ago, Ford Motor Company celebrated its centenary in Jamaica – we were their first international location. Black River had electricity before New York City, and the Manchester Golf Club is the oldest in the Americas. In a beautiful letter posted on social media, former Canadian High Commissioner Robert Ready reminded us that Bank of Nova Scotia expanded to Jamaica before it had a branch in Toronto!

The fastest man and woman in the world – Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – are homegrown. Food For the Poor, which was started in Kingston, Jamaica, by Ferdie Mahfood, is now the largest international charity in the USA. David Hall’s VIP Attractions Ltd now boasts the finest airport lounges in the world, with Club MoBay being expanded twice since its launch.

Clearly, if Jamaica can have such achievements, we can meet Michael Lee-Chin’s high expectations. Like the coaches of Usain and Shelly-Ann, Lee-Chin will want optimum efficiency from every stakeholder in Jamaica’s economy. We fervently hope that this will herald the beginning of the end of that ‘conspiracy of mediocrity’ that has allowed too many to squander the hard-earned taxes of humble Jamaicans.


It gladdened our hearts to see and hear the farmers of all ages in White Shop, Clarendon, as they received certificates for completing courses which will equip them to grow their crops – in particular red peas. We journeyed to this district on the outskirts of Spalding last Friday in the driving rain, but the joyful event left us with no regrets. This was a Central Jamaica Social Development Initiative (CJSDI) for red peas farming and solar water harvesting to provide year-round irrigation. It was a smooth-running partnership of the agriculture ministry’s Rural Agricultural Development Authority, the Social Development Commission (SDC), Planning Institute Of Jamaica (PIOJ), and the Digicel Foundation.

Farmer Deborah Rose noted, "We did not miss any class – indeed we wanted more. We were taught soil management, the application of fertiliser."

She particularly thanked educators, the caring couple Lennox and Deidria Christie for ensuring that they completed courses in English and Mathematics. Project Officer John Meeks, SDC Parish Manager Baldvin McKenzie, PIOJ Technical Specialist Charmaine Brimm, and Member of Parliament Richard Azan, all pledged their continued support of the keen farmers.

Guest speaker Anthony Freckleton was the man who had motivated the partners to activate the expansion. Lennox Christie recalled a news report quoting Freckleton’s statement that it was almost criminal that Jamaica was importing approximately $1 billion worth of red peas each year. Freckleton and his wife Wendy donated over 1,800 pounds of red peas to the farmers to assist in their efforts. He congratulated the farmers on their modern packaging of the peas in reclosable bags, and said that the peas would have a regular market because they were of the type that would readily colour rice. Very interesting!

Mr Freckleton encouraged the farmers to look at such products as lemon grass, which has strong cancer-fighting properties, and the watermelon rind from which a compound to fight high blood pressure can be made. He lauded the efforts of PIOJ’s Barbara Scott with whom he had collaborated on the South Coast Development Plan. He said there were resourceful farming methods taking place in Rose Hill and Knockpatrick where 23 greenhouses had been established, and hoped that such products as soup mixes will utilise more of our local crops.

He acknowledged that farming required hard work and perseverance, but assured the graduates that "life without challenges is no life at all." Well said, Anthony Freckleton.


As we contemplate two of the murders most foul during the past week – a three-year-old child and a policewoman, we appeal to the churches to collaborate with Government and other sectors to introduce a more energetic programme of counselling and mediation across Jamaica. The church is a resource which can be used more efficiently to promote harmony in homes and communities. Before Jamaica can confidently move forward, we have to get a handle on crime. With the will and willingness, it can be done. Prayer is always good, but as my dear mother used to say, "God helps those who help themselves."


Clelia Barreto de Hunter, honorary consul for Ecuador in Jamaica, expressed her appreciation for the concern of many Jamaicans for the well-being of her fellow citizens who were affected by a catastrophic earthquake on April 16, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale. To date, there are 655 confirmed fatalities, nearly 100 missing, over 25,000 homeless, some isolated as roads and bridges have been destroyed. The international community has been rallying to assist in what will be a long and costly recovery period. Let us collaborate to see how we in Jamaica can assist and keep the suffering Ecuadoreans in our prayers.



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