Election dubs and sobering stats

Election dubs and sobering stats

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, August 17, 2020

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness chose to announce the upcoming general election in the Parliament last Tuesday, acknowledging that we were in a pandemic — a far cry from the huge and colourful gatherings of the past. We learned that nomination day would be tomorrow, Tuesday, August 18, and election day would be Thursday, September 3. There is a sense of relief that the whole process will be executed quickly.

“We will be efficient, and we will be peaceful,” urged Holness. “We are having an election in a pandemic… it is important that politics does not become a cause of the spread… I decided to announce this in the House, the people's House, not a House of disunity, and I am asking that we are united as a country, as one people.” He appealed that the election be conducted “agreeably, peacefully, and responsibly”.

And so we are now in election mode, with ads blaring on radio, TV, and on social media, one dub competing with the other. It is all good fun for this land of reggae and dancehall — why quarrel when we can dance?

However, we are concerned that the seniors, the most faithful of all voters, be protected as they go to the polls. We know the familiar election day sights often captured in the press — the elderly being lifted into motor vehicles and taken to vote. We hope that representatives of both political parties will ensure that individuals who have this task will comply with all the safety protocols.

At a recent press briefing Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton expressed misgivings when asked if people with COVID-19 would be allowed to vote. We wonder also about those individuals who may not be positive but are in quarantine. Could consideration be given to allowing those electors to vote on the day reserved for the security forces? We have been hearing from seniors that if people with COVID-19 are allowed to vote on election day they will not be participating, so we hope a solution can be found.

Last week was very troubling as we saw a distinct spike in the cases of COVID-19 , with numbers well past the 1,000 mark and two communities in quarantine. It was disappointing to hear that a pastor had exposed his congregation in the Sandy Bay community. Most of the established denominations are compliant, and so, once again, we are appealing to the Jamaica Council of Churches, the Evangelicals, the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches, and the multifaith organisations to have a register online of bona fide places of worship so that pretenders do not prey on gullible citizens.

Having been living nearly six months in this 'twilight zone' of COVID-19 it seems people are letting their guard down and endangering others. Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie has warned that you are 3.5 times more likely to be infected in a motor vehicle than in a workplace or a household. If you are using a taxi or bus, please remember to wear your mask, ensuring that your nose and mouth are covered.

Several workplaces have announced that members of their staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and so those of us who have reopened our businesses and have not had any incidents should not become complacent. I recently entered a small shop with a bold sign, “No Mask, No Entry”, yet several people were being served who were not seen wearing masks. We understand that in one community a shopkeeper has tested positive for COVID-19 and it is a stark reminder that, as we try to balance life and livelihood, we must stick to the protocols.

PSOJ on economic recovery

Last Friday's Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) conference gave us some hard facts, but ended on a note of hope. Gratitude to Dr Marcia Forbes who live-tweeted from the conference since I was not able to attend. Her assessment of Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association President Richard Pandohie as “bright and practical” was borne out by the factors he presented, including:

* pre-COVID-19, lots of economic activities, but no real economic growth

* consumption-driven economy with minimal value-added

* operating the same way we did will not give us a V-shape recovery

* radical change in economic base required with a heavy focus on value-added, productivity and export

* need service pillar and productive pillar together, not one or the other

* diversification will be a key driver

He noted that the following were needed to provide the right kind of support for manufacturing — policy directives and support to drive export, incentives for research and development, capacity support to help micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs) to access available funds, capability development to improve supply and quality of technical resources, broadband improvement, and focus on our strengths (agro-processing, creative and logistics).

Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association (JHTA) Vice-President Nicola Madden-Greig said a 75 per cent decline in visitor arrivals was expected, and that aeroplane load capacity is expected to be between 40 per cent and 50 per cent, instead of the usual 80 per cent; cruise tourism is expected to resume in the fourth quarter of this year.

“However, major UK and Canadian tour operators were set to resume flights in September, and there is expectation of increased intra-regional travel,” she shared. “The local 'staycation' market will provide welcome support, but new business models and new markets will need to be explored.”

In a media interview later in the day PSOJ President Keith Duncan said that it was time for Jamaica to move from planning to action. He noted that Jamaica was able to achieve macroeconomic stability because there were strict criteria laid down by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and “what gets measured gets done”.

“Jamaica is 134 out of 190 in trade, import and export,” he noted, “and so we must now have the will and the focus… COVID had exposed all our vulnerabilities. We have become a nation of buyers and sellers,” he said. He called for greater investment in broadband and good governance to address these gaping shortcomings.

Kamala Harris on Biden’s ticket

Women of colour everywhere, and Jamaica in particular, rejoiced when front-running candidate for the Democratic nomination for the US presidency Joe Biden announced that his running mate would be Senator Kamala Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants. Harris made a riveting acceptance speech honouring her family and Biden, and criticising the US President Donald Trump's handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Trump and his allies responded in harsh tones. This reminded me of the attacks on Michelle Obama as described in her book Becoming. It is the cynical portrayal of the strong woman of colour as “the angry black woman”. However, Senator Harris remained positive and dignified in subsequent interviews. We are proud of her.

Happy Birthday, Marcus Garvey

Today, the 133rd birthday of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the great man must be smiling down at the prospect of a daughter of a Jamaican campaigning for high office, and at the enduring strength of our democracy. It should be a national holiday, imbuing the nation with his philosophy of dignity and self-reliance. As Stevie Wonder sang for Martin Luther King, let us create some dubs for a 'Marcus Garvey Day'.



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