Loving ourselves as much as they love us

Loving ourselves as much as they love us

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, December 09, 2019

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My colleague said she was almost embarrassed at the applause she received at a conference in South Africa when she stood up to be recognised. “For Jamaica, it was louder than for the other countries,” she recalled.

We should feel very special to be Jamaican. We have been blessed with many international friends that share their time, talent, and treasure with us. The billions invested by the European Union collectively, and its members individually; USA; China; UK; Canada in Jamaica should swell our ambition to make Jamaica a model for peace and productivity.

We note the efforts of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), led by Therese Turner-Jones, to promote information techonology, help us combat the effects of climate change, and assist the special needs community.

At a recent event hosted by United States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia, he acknowledged our country's sovereignty and challenged us to be “Jamaicans for Jamaica”. That challenge should give us pause. If we are committed to being Jamaicans for Jamaica, why are we, after so many decades, still grappling with a struggling economy, high crime and extreme indiscipline?

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has thrown the proverbial cat among the pigeons by announcing his plan to build six STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-centred high schools with guidelines that go beyond our Education Act. The principal and faculty will be hired on contract and subject to performance-based evaluation. The prime minister explained that our young people have to be job-ready for the digital revolution.

When I had to organise projects with teachers and nurses about a decade ago, I found that the nurses were ahead of the teachers in the use of basic e-mail applications. It turned out that IT was part of the training for nurses, while it had not yet been compulsory for teacher training.

We cry out for efficiency, yet the debate around the proposed national ID card continues. We cite invasion of privacy as an issue, yet we willingly submit detailed information about ourselves when applying for visas to other countries.

As our Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Nigel Clarke rolls out his performance-related evaluation for public service employees, I am reminded of a column written some years ago by now Press Association President George Davis describing his first-hand observation of the time-wasting stationery stealers in a government office. Such workers make life very hard for colleagues of excellence.

I remember one bright-eyed young man, his heart overflowing with patriotism, returned from great prospects in the US to take up a job at a government agency. His efforts to be inclusive of other government ministries when planning certain events were met with resistance. His suggestions for higher efficiency were stonewalled by a culture of complacency. After less than a year he migrated to take up a plum job in the US.

This column has named such behaviour as “the conspiracy of mediocrity”, and I am sorry to say that such behaviour extends to some members of the private sector. This is the biggest hurdle between us and that “five-in-four” growth hoped for by the Economic Growth Council.

One short-term solution is technology. There are programmes that measure punctuality, productivity, even creativity. The long-term solution is a nationwide return to the values and attitudes that will promote good ethics and discipline. The Kingston & St Andrew Development Foundation sponsored a student motivation programme last month for which individuals who hold leadership positions gave motivational talks to high school students. I was blessed to address Jamaica College, the school attended by National Hero Norman Manley, prime ministers Michael Manley and Bruce Golding, business leaders Karl Hendrickson and R Danny Williams, and road safety advocate Dr Lucien Jones. With each slide I presented on these visionaries I saw the students' interest grow.

I explained that they will get many talks on wise investing as they graduate and join the workforce, but there was one important investment that they had to start making as early as possible — an investment in their reputation. I urged them to go the extra mile in volunteering and in learning to give without an expectation of reward. I reminded them of the importance of gratitude for those parents and guardians who may not have had the education they were receiving, but who insisted that they must get the best opportunities. The best expression of gratitude, I shared, was excellence in their efforts.

We Jamaicans should live this spirit of gratitude. We were born in a place where we need not shovel snow at this time of the year, a place of beauty and promise. Let us commit to diligence and discipline so that, in the words of our national pledge, “Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity”.

CCRP insurance success

Caribbean Community of Retired Persons, a seniors organisation I founded in 2010 as a tribute to my senior mentors, surpassed our target by enrolling over 8,000 Jamaicans in an affordable health plan brilliantly designed by CGM Gallagher and generously underwritten by Sagicor. The three-month open enrollment period accepted individuals with no evidence of insurability and no age limit. The project could not have succeeded without the voluntary work of the PROComm team; Debbie Cargill; and our chapter conveners Patricia Blackwood (Central Jamaica), Dr Norma Taylor (Western Jamaica), and Pixley Irons (North-east Jamaica).

Now we turn to working towards strengthening laws and expanding neighbourhood watch sites to protect our beloved elderly.

Congratulations

Hearty congratulations to a favourite couple, Kemesha Kelly and Gordon Swaby, who tied the knot at a memorable ceremony in the cool hills of Manchester recently. We were touched by the eloquent vows they wrote for each other and wish for them a long and happy marriage.

Condolence

We extend deep sympathy to the family of the former Private Sector of Jamaica president and chair of the Stella Maris Foundation, Beverly Lopez. She made a significant contribution to her country and will be greatly missed. Funeral service will take place on Saturday, December 14, at Stella Maris Church. May her soul rest in peace.

lowriechin@aim

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com


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