The Jamaica agenda for 2014
WHETHER Jamaica and Jamaicans have a happy new year ultimately depends on the Divine. But to the extent that we can influence our own experiences and destiny, all of us have to work together on a common agenda to make our homeland a better place.
This means that our commitment has to extend beyond our family, friends and community. We have to make a pledge to build a better Jamaica by cultivating a mindset that everything that happens or can happen in Jamaica is "my business". To accomplish this type of united national effort, we have to put aside our political, racial, class, gang, team, and religious biases and prejudices and put the economic development of the country before the individual accumulation of wealth. What is that agenda?
First, we must reduce the level of violence, starting with a drastic reduction in murder. But the reduction in violence has to cover all the ways in which we do violence: the cruelty to children; the rape of young girls; brutalising the elderly and the disabled; as well as the neglect of the destitute. We may not be able to love all our brothers and sisters, but we can be compassionate and refrain from violence. Let us also reduce the coarseness of social interaction and replace this with civility, even in how we speak to each other.
Second, we must reduce the level of crime because it is crippling Jamaica in every way. We have to cut down all forms of crime, especially those that affect the poorest people. It is long overdue for us to effectively tackle organised crime, in particular, white collar crime. We must not only apprehend the petty criminal, but lock up the accountants and lawyers who manage the affairs of the thieves. We are far too tolerant of these white collar criminals bearing the trappings of respectability. We have to stop stealing electricity and water, buying forged passports and driver's licences, and bribing the police and building approval agencies.
Third, we must stick to the economic programme which we have agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). We have made a very encouraging start, and we give special commendations to the Minister of Finance Dr Peter Phillips and his team for keeping this difficult process on track and on schedule.
Jamaica cannot afford to fail this time around, because the international financial community is still sceptical of the management skills of both political parties and of many of our civil servants.
We must get it right for the first time and set the economy on a path of sustainable economic growth. The Government cannot continue to depend on loans from the IMF, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. Neither can we rely solely on remittances to take care of our needs.
Fourth, it is time for political maturity as the basis for a national consensus on an agenda of priorities and a programme of policy measures to achieve these goals. Politicians must exhibit the necessary patriotism and work towards a reduction in partisanship. The JLP must stop taking the name Opposition literally and become a source of constructive criticism and suggestions. The Government must set an example to the people and must welcome all who want to contribute ideas and time.
Nation-building is the responsibility of each and every Jamaican. Ask not what your country can do for you, but instead ask what you can do for Jamaica. Let us all join team Jamaica now.