100-day test unfair to PNP — Prof Wilson

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

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THE practice of assessing Jamaican political administrations after their first 100 days in office - in this case the People's National Party - is unfair to those parties and should be discouraged, a leading Jamaican academic, based in the United States has said.

Professor Basil "Bagga" Wilson, retired provost of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, USA and present dean of graduate studies at the Bronx-based Monroe College, said that too much emphasis had been placed on the 100-day analysis, which was no true measure of an administration.

"The 100 days thing is just silliness - that is just an imitation of what the American system represents," Prof Wilson said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer after delivering a lecture at his alma mater Kingston College titled 'The impact of Kingston College on leadership in Jamaica since 1962', last week.

"One of the reasons why you cannot make a proper assessment of the PNP yet is that there is this ongoing IMF negotiation and there are certain conditionalities that we have to meet if we are going to present a budget.

"Remember now, we have been running these chronic deficits. We have 140 per cent accumulated debt of our GDP (gross domestic product), we cannot continue like that. It is a road to bankruptcy. We have a serious problem of inequality, which we have to deal with, we have to have a professional class and an upper class willing to pay their fair share of taxes, we have to have a more effective way of collecting taxes, so if we can do that it means that you can begin to close the budget, without putting the burden on the mass of the population," Prof Wilson said.

The veteran educator said that for Jamaica to be placed on a sound path for economic takeoff, education by any government must be given priority treatment, as it was one of the main ways that solid achievements can be attained.

"We need to make certain that our educational institutions function far more effectively, because human capital becomes important in global markets and the global system. Our educational system needs to be more introspective, we have to do much more teacher training and we have to realise that there are master teachers that need to begin to train younger teachers in developing the best of our young people.

"The whole education thing is going to play a big role in the developmental process, but we have to find ways to begin to strengthen the society outside of the political class," he stated.

Prof Wilson said that despite the challenges that Jamaica had faced over the years, much had been achieved and there were signs that good things were continuing to happen.

"We can point to accomplishments. It's not a case of us being a disaster. We have done exceptionally well in the area of demographics for example. If you look at the zero to 14 age group, it is decreasing rather than increasing, so there are less people coming into the labour market.

"Before the global economic collapse, the unemployment rate was decreasing and there has been an expansion of tertiary education, there is a big step up in that regard especially giving access to poor people to tertiary education. So the community colleges are playing an important role as a stopgap measure in expanding the art of tertiary education," he said.

Prof Wilson cited the solidifying of life in communities, as another crucial way in which the Jamaican society could achieve firm growth.

"The key to me is how viable can you make communities and bring about that stability. That is one of the things that has hurt us - one of the reasons for the high crime rate, one of the reasons for the kind of sub-culture of violence that took hold, so there are things that we can begin to tackle that will be a big factor in bringing about a new growth in our economic sector.

"We have to look at the community. We need people who can organise communities to make them viable. That is an important human capital development that we have to put in," he stated.

Such social programmes, however, may not find favour with lending institutions like the International Monetary Fund, with which Jamaica is negotiating a new funding agreement and which has in the past shunned such activities.

However, Prof Wilson said the behaviour of the IMF in particular had changed, resulting in more hope for developing countries like Jamaica.

"The IMF has become much more sophisticated in understanding how you alleviate poverty. If you can get some support from the US or elsewhere, community development is not only about money, it's about organisation, it's about leadership. You do have some grassroots leaders, but the 'Donmanship' business has created an artificial and a distorted kind of social hierarchy in the community.

"You need to go back to the kind of community development, where the student aspiring to go back to the University of the West Indies, the person who is forming a youth club or football team can begin to take leadership positions in the community. Women also have a critical role to play in the whole business of community development.

"You need to move away from the 'Donmanship' and in some respects we have communities where people don't even want to be Dons anymore, but you have to fill that vacuum in such a way that the community becomes more cohesive and begins to tackle problems of children being born out of wedlock, dealing with problems of child abuse, dealing with problems of kids who drop out of school, a cohesive community would tackle more effectively those kinds of problems, and we have had some experiments like what Amcham (American Chamber of Commerce) is doing in Grant's Pen, where we can see the results of it.

"So if we get the necessary resources and we get the necessary cohesiveness and leadership, we can turn that around. Amcham was an investment. We can reduce the violence. It is not just the cursive apparatus of the state, but how we can rekindle social capital and the whole business of cultural development that matters.

"We need to have a lot of drumming, music classes, dance classes in our communities... our people are naturally creative. They want to express their creativity, which cannot happen unless you have the vessels that can accommodate that level of creativity. We need to move beyond dance hall. Once you get kinds opening up their insights of who they are and what they are, you would be surprised to know you can creative different kinds of community dynamics.

"You look at football — it's not as violent as it used to be. That is one of the contributions that (former national coach) Winston Chung made — the linking of education to football, not just looking at football in isolation, but how youth who play football can in fact also have a commitment to education and develop themselves," Prof Wilson said.

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