To whom much is given, much is expected

Sunday, February 17, 2013

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The Jamaican economy has been in a no-growth equilibrium trap since the 1970s, and this has been due to a series of unfavourable exogenous factors, in particular, adverse external economic events, natural disasters, and poor economic management.

The fact that other developing countries, including small ones, have faced the same harsh global economic circumstances and have achieved consistent economic growth points to inept economic policy and incompetent economic management by our governments.

As a result of this manifest economic failure, the reality for the vast majority of Jamaicans is that they are poorer now than they were 30 years ago. This persistent impoverishment has been the experience of the working class — a charitable interpretation, given the high level of unemployment — and the middle class, aptly described by the late Professor Carl Stone as the upper poor.

Successive calls for adjustment, stabilisation and transformation have put the burden on the poor and the upper poor. The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement is no exception, since it will largely require sacrifice from the less fortunate — a fact that the public sector unions will soon realise when they have to do their patriotic duty.

Meanwhile, income distribution has become more uneven and wealth and ownership are now more concentrated in a smaller percentage of the population. This being so, the sacrifice this time must be borne by those in the best economic position to make such a sacrifice.

The extent to which they have to sacrifice is in their hands, because it is their conduct that is going to determine whether there is economic growth and whether the rest of the country gets better off.

It is time for those of us who have succeeded through hard work and ingenuity to embrace our patriotic duty and share the fruits of our success. The poor and middle class are in no position to bear the brunt of this sacrifice.

At this crucial time, there is nothing to gain by blaming the Government of the day, because we got here over a long period of time, during which both major political parties have shared power.

The private sector must step up to the plate, not only because it has the means but because too many firms have failed to fully realise Jamaica's potential.

It is noteworthy that many of the major developments in Jamaica have been accomplished by the less privileged. Our national heroes were all from slaves or from poor or lower middle class circumstances, except Mr George William Gordon.

Mr Bob Marley and our world-dominating athletes are almost all from the poor. It was the working class that forced social change in the late 1930s and put backbone into the middle class nationalists to get political independence.

From each, according to his ability, to each, according to his need, is just as applicable to our free enterprise system. Let us also be guided by the words of Aristotle, who propounded the doctrine that between unequals, equity requires not reciprocity, but proportionality.




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