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'Sick' police, sickly economy — forget sanctions

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Suggestions that rank and file cops who went on sick-out in the days before Christmas could face unspecified sanctions from the police high command do not make sense to us at this time when the big picture is about reducing runaway murders.

Undoubtedly, the timing of that industrial action for it was just that was extremely bad and suggests a heartlessness on the part of the police who, more than anyone else, are aware that security is a primary need during the heightened activities of the holiday period.

Yet, as unpalatable as that was, they were acting in accordance with their rights under the constitution of Jamaica, even if they are barred from taking certain industrial action, such as striking in pursuance of a dispute, as an essential service.

Instead of talking about sanctions against people exercising their rights, we should be searching for a comprehensive mix of policy and operational initiatives, which have eluded us so far, to get some level of control over the criminals who hold this country to ransom.

For as far back as we can remember, political parties, even if only on the hustings, have acknowledged that the compensation and working conditions of policemen and women have been paltry and not nearly enough to inspire hard work and commitment to fight crime.

But we have also, from one end of the country to the next, acknowledged that crime, especially murders, is the number one impediment to the growth and development of the economy, at an unquantifiable cost.

Now, we might never, as an anaemic economy, be able to pay police commensurate with their just deserts, but it seems logical that investing in bringing down the murder rate to tolerable levels is a no-brainer. We must meet the police part way.

We accept that the longer-term solution is growing the economy. Fortunately, most of the indicators of good health in the economy are pointing in the right direction: the inflation, interest, and unemployment rates are trending south; the dollar is appreciating; the net international reserves are vibrant; and the foreign debt is falling.

Jamaica, at 72, is the highest ranked Caribbean Community country, according to the latest Forbes Magazine survey of 153 countries making its “Best Countries for Business” list.

The obvious lesson here is that we are on the way to the desirable economic growth but that there is growing impatience at the pace of growth, and that the benefits are taking too long to reach those who need them most.

If crime is one of the main impediments to economic growth, as we have argued, then we must do everything to remove it, including equipping and compensating the police to play their critical part.

Let us not indulge in the inane argument that every other area of the public service read nurses, doctors, teachers and the like is just as important. No other area is holding back the economy to the extent that crime is.

Fix crime and we'll be able to pay nurses, doctors, teachers, and all the other public servants whom we value.