Letters to the Editor

What are we celebrating?

Friday, August 03, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

Isn't it interesting that with all the festivities surrounding our Emancipation and Independence the only things that we can boast about are our music and our athletes? Are you telling me that almost 180 years after Emancipation and 50 years since Independence the only thing that we can brag about is entertainment?

Some of us would want to pull the wool over our eyes and point to the many advances made since the British left, like widespread access to education, advanced communication technologies and travel.

However, let us not fool ourselves. All of these are natural developments that would have happened even if the British were still here. Indeed, many would point to the Cayman and Turks and Caicos islands as proof that more would have happened had the British remained. Interestingly, both island groups were once our dependencies. How the tables have turned!

So what are we really celebrating? A report came out sometime ago pointing out how much our productivity has fallen since the 1960s. According to the report, productivity per person has fallen from a level where it took roughly one Jamaican to do the work of one Trinidadian in the 1960s to the current level now of five Jamaicans doing the work of one Trinidadian.

We have become a lazy people - both physically and intellectually. Yet we celebrate.

Did you know that both China and Singapore modelled their economic prosperity on the Jamaican experience of the 1960s, which by the way was a spin-off of our time as a British colony before? In the 1960s Singapore sent its experts here to learn what was going on. In the 1970s China sent some of their experts to Singapore to learn what they previously learnt from us.

Where are our countries today? Singapore, a country that is a fraction of Jamaica's size, is a major economic power. It has a large manufacturing base. Did you know that Singapore is a major builder of ships of all types and sizes? And, of course, we all know China. Everything is made there. China has come a long way since the 1960s - from being the world's laughing stock to a major power.

As for Jamaica, there can be no doubt we have failed miserably in economic terms. The momentum that was built up during British rule that came to fruition in the 1960s in the form of rapid economic growth is now a distant memory. I saw another report that showed how our income per person has not changed in real terms since the early 1970s. How we can celebrate - while being such poor managers - remains a mystery to me.

We boast about our feats in education and especially about the growth of access to university education. But how can we boast when we have to get engineers from China and elsewhere when a bridge is to be built or repaired? Foreign technocrats built all our major highways. Virtually all of the information systems that we use to do even the most basic of tasks are imported. Indeed, apart from studying dancehall music, what else do they do at our universities that is real?

You know, great nations celebrate accomplishments that are real. Some of them point to their advances in governance, science and technology. Inferior nations are the ones that celebrate minor accomplishments as major ones, like music, sports and other forms of entertainment. I refuse to be one of those to fool myself into celebrating mediocrity.

Michael A Dingwall







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