Reset Jamaica: Fire the imagination

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Reset Jamaica: Fire the imagination

Imani Duncan-Price

Sunday, June 28, 2020

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As countries reopen their economies, there's a debate globally about the kind of economic bounce back they can expect post-COVID-19. Will it be V-shaped — a fast come back after a rapid decline? U-shaped — a slower come back after the economic fall-off? Or L-shaped — stuck in low-growth mode for a while? The type of bounce back is largely based on the strength of the economy prior to the hit and the extent of collaboration amongst key stakeholders.

The Jamaican economy was in decline before the COVID-19 crisis which emerged in March 2020. Jamaica had marginal growth of 0.3 per cent for the September 2019 quarter, which further declined to 0.1 per cent growth in the December quarter of 2019. The pandemic made the situation worse, leading to projected negative growth up to a whopping 14 per cent for the June 2020 quarter.

Such crises can lead some to complete paralysis. Other people respond by doing the same things the same way as it's what they know and they hope it gets better. It often doesn't. Other leaders use such moments as a basis for meaningful collaboration, creativity in thinking and new ways in executing solutions.

A genuine partnership approach involving churches, private sector, civil society, trade unions, both political parties and government can play a significant role in creating a new and better Jamaica. This is not easy. But imagine if we used this economic and social crisis to “Reset” to a more sustainable and inclusive reality where the majority of Jamaicans can thrive.

This kind of reset also calls for real bipartisan collaboration. The significant problems facing Jamaica are not orange or green — they are Jamaica's problems.

All Jamaicans are facing the choppy seas head on. The difference is that some are in boats that are strong and sturdy or have multiple comfortable cabins to ride it out and others are on a wooden raft or simply hanging to a floating tyre to ride the waves. Yes, COVID-19 exposed the stark inequalities in our country. The resilience to withstand such crises largely depends on whether people live uptown, downtown, in deep rural communities or rural-urban centres.

In all of this, Jamaica can pull together its best resources to define the new. That is, people from all walks of life with practical and visionary ideas, heart and fixity of purpose. Capital is also needed to fuel such initiatives and that primarily resides in the local and international private sector and international financial institutions.

Most teams are now working on recovery plans for various economic sectors in the country to largely return us to the way we were. However, the way we were only got us marginal growth and significant income and social inequality. We can build a better Jamaica focusing our combined strengths and talents on our three main challenges — the economy, education and fighting violent crime.

We need a high-performing cross-functional team of the private and public sector, as well as community members who would be tasked with making the many communities of downtown Kingston comfortable places to live and work — not a pilot project approach. This would involve the following:

1. Comprehensive data collection on who owns the land they live on, who has the right to the title for government or private land that they have been living on, who is working, age, gender, education level, etc. This would be the baseline description of the area.

2. Create a Special Purpose Vehicle through the National Housing Trust to fund renewal of these homes for current residents within a community design. The redesign goal is building communities with a mix of affordable, low-income comfortable homes and high-end homes supported by community spaces and parks.

3. Employ the many skilled young people living in these communities to build the homes. Those who don't have the skills, train them so they can be employed.

4. Mobilise private capital and multinationals to create funds that can be easily accessed by micro-entrepreneurs through microfinance entities at affordable rates to fuel local growth.

5. Establish public-private partnership to invest in every school in these communities to provide three meals daily for all students and pay teachers to stay after official school hours to oversee structured play and homework up to the early evenings.

6. Involve the police in many of the above initiatives so they become an integral part of creating a community of trust and success.

If we are going to change a generation, we have to invest and support them. We can reset Jamaica.

— Imani Duncan-Price is a PNP spokeswoman on industry, competitiveness and global logistics, Young Global Leader, Eisenhower Fellow and former senator. E-mail feedback to fullticipation@gmail.com


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