Time for managed nation-building!

Try social sufficiency programme for Ja's growth and development

Monday, February 18, 2019

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Contemplating the raging debate over crime in Jamaica, I can't help to wonder if we are truly interested in fighting the scourge of crime in our “Paradise”. The zones of special operations (ZOSO) came and went. Crime went down, and will certainly go up again. Did we adequately address the root cause of criminality, or did we just contain it for a while? Did we use the window of opportunity to build a legacy of sustainability for our unattached youth? Or are we just roaming in perpetual oblivion to the effects of crime?

I can tell you from observation in the US that, as bad as things are, their citizens have access to a greater social system than we could possibly dream about in Jamaica, and a few of which could be emulated in Jamaica.

For this exercise, I will touch on two areas that if fully tapped by the Jamaican authorities could be very beneficial to the life of Jamaicans. This includes adequate or more improved social services, which will focus on the National Housing Trust (NHT) and a Social Upliftment Project mirroring the Self-Sufficiency Programme here in the United States.

The basis of such an upliftment project lies in protection for its citizens. Housing or voucher programmes form the core from which participants are chosen. Of course, there are pre-qualification requirements, but of such are any programme's mechanisms to protect itself from those who would seek to unfairly benefit from its proceedings. The programme is based on the premise that houses are owned by the Government or rent is shared with landlords and participants who enter into contractual agreements to satisfy certain conditions throughout their stay in the programme “to maintain eligibility and ultimately to graduate and reap the rewards of consistent personal and/or financial development”. At the end of the day the participants, once graduating out of the programme, are placed in a stronger position to help themselves and society. In essence, the programme pays a part of the participants' rent and holds a portion in escrow until the end of the contract period. If the participants graduate from the programme they receive the money; if they don't graduate the money is forfeited and placed back in the programme to support others. The goals for programme completion are set entirely by the participant with the help of the family support specialist. Due to their ownership of the goals, the participants are more prepared and equipped to benefit and move forward with their lives.

Participants set educational goals, sustainability goals (to obtain jobs) and/or homeownership goals. The programme managers work with each head of household and to craft plans for their personal development. Programme managers tap into a wide array of resources from funding to private-public partnerships that result in free training for citizens. This achieves two things: Assists with adequate assessment of the underserved/marginalised section of society and directs the population into emerging areas /jobs. This may be supplemented by the participants, over time, being trained in financial management or for homeownership. This is where the NHT enters the picture; it could build low-income houses. However, anyone who obtains one of these homes must work and be placed on a sustainable development plan. If they fall off/out, then the benefit of having somewhere subsidised to live will be lost and escrow forfeited. The rent will be valued at market rate, but subsidised by NHT, and a portion of the payment put in escrow for the participant's benefit to buy a home over time — which could be through NHT itself. Many other attributes exist with this programme, but the idea should be explored for thoroughness.

Twinned with this proposal for development is the protection of Jamaican jobs for Jamaicans. I have watched with horror and seen foreigners come to Jamaica and get the best jobs. Are we so blind to see that by this act we are doing a disservice to the growth of the country? I can tell you, as a foreigner in the US and across the Caribbean, you have to pay your dues. You don't just walk into a good job. In many cases, you have to spend time there honing your skills to their culture — which is not necessarily better than ours — and then work yourself up. Too many of our good jobs go to foreigners. I dare to say that we like foreigners more than our own, until you go to live overseas and see the treatment dished out to foreigners. Insultingly, you hear that, “Oh, this is how it is.” Our politicians have done a lousy job of defending our own. We should protect Jamaican jobs for Jamaicans. Other countries do it, why shouldn't we do the same?

This growth and development initiative could be operated as a joint programme among the ministries of labour and social welfare and land and housing, with the NHT as a joint partner. How will this work?

Employers will send their vacancies to the secretariat of the programme, which will seek out participants for the programme through signed contracts and appropriately developed plans. Participants could be sought from the marginalised sections of society. Ultimately, the goal will result in sustained personal development of individuals and the lowering of crime; giving people hope through planned interventions, structured learning initiatives, and direct population learning; hence, actively managing nation-building.

If you don't have the skill sets to fill the roles needed by employers, this is a grand opportunity to direct lower socio-economic families into those areas within a contractual arrangement to guide their personal development according to their abilities and talent.

Horatio Morgan is a trained management analyst, 2017 Commonwealth Study Conferences Leader and a 2014 Drug Court Policy Fellowship Awardee working in the US civil service. He is actively seeking to impact the development of a sustainable Jamaica for all. Send comments to the Observer or horatio.morgan@yahoo.com.

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