We need more than a consensus on crime

We need more than a consensus on crime

Thursday, August 06, 2020

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Dear Editor,

I am happy that there is an attempt to reach consensus on an approach to curtail crime in Jamaica, but several of the proposals seem to be awaiting major reports, legislation, or more detailed proposals when I believe some simple things can be done immediately — as they are not difficult to implement — to curtail corruption, cronyism and crime.

First, we need the transparent reporting from public bodies: Quarterly reports are already prepared by most public bodies, which essentially lay out their achievements versus what was planned; actual income and expenditure versus planned; as well as plans and targets for the next quarter. These reports should be available to the public, as is done for public companies on the stock exchange and the reports should be published on their websites.

Boards of Public Bodies- While we are awaiting reforms and new legislation which has been promised for umpteen years and still cannot be presented, let us restructure the existing public boards by ensuring fit and proper skilled people are selected. No more than 10 people should sit on any board and the chairman and three members should be selected by the minister, with three members selected by the Opposition and three by civil society, including the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), churches, etc. Most of the corruption being unearthed these days is because supporters from the party in power are in total control of the boards and many of them consider their appointment merely as an opportunity to plunder our scarce resources.

Next, a significant percentage of our crime stems from inner-city, squatter and depressed communities which now accommodate an estimated 900,000 of our population. Many of these are relics from the abolishment of slavery, where slaves were given their “freedom” with no resources or land to compensate for their years of blood, sweat and tears, and we have not put enough effort and resources into improving the conditions of these communities, but largely ignore them and police them in the harshest way often taking away their few civil liberties. The time has come where we must take the over $200 billion of National Housing Trust money and begin to invest a portion in upgrading these communities and restoring some semblance of dignity and pride in the people who live there. Put in the basic infrastructure and provide people with titles to their holdings. Crime will never be reduced if we do not invest in developing these communities.

Robert Stephens


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