Jamaica 24/7, 365

Jamaica 24/7, 365

The country that never sleeps

Courtney Lodge

Sunday, October 11, 2020

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And it came to pass that Jamaicans all over the island are finally sleeping with their doors open again, violent crime has been conquered, widespread poverty has been eradicated, illiteracy is no more, the median income of Jamaicans and the Ease of Doing Business in Jamaica are both in the top 10 of the world for five consecutive years.

Everyone living in a community has consistent supply of piped water in their homes, they easily afford utility bills and education for themselves and their families, they have good roads, clean communities where garbage is removed daily, and people are happy, healthy and super productive. Unemployment has statistically vanished as Jamaica operates 24/7s, 365, and has become known as “The country that never sleeps.” The “5 in 4” has not only been achieved in three consecutive four-year terms, which included two different political administrations. But the target five per cent economic growth has been regularly shattered with growth of over 10 per cent in three successive years.

The “5 in 4” target has been shifted to “10 in 4” (minimum of 10 per cent economic growth in the four-year cycle of any political administration) as the only political promise that the Jamaican voters even stop to listen to.

It is good that we are now at this point as a country, but it is also important to look back to at least the year 2020, during which the country and the world was almost totally brought to a halt by the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

After a landslide victory at the polls, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had the foresight and courage to accept the People's National Party's (PNP) overtures for more bipartisan actions in the interest of Jamaica and the Jamaican people. The collaboration worked wonders, as the Opposition party was no longer expected to just oppose, but was provided with budgetary and other support by the ruling party to execute on those projects that the Opposition conceptualised, drafted, and proposed; provided, of course, that there were no evidence of interference with, or attempts to undermine the Government and its operations. The Opposition operated more like a quasi-governmental private enterprise that was allowed to lead, or be a valued stakeholder in several public-private partnerships that resulted in tremendous goodwill across the political, sociocultural, and economic divides in the country.

This political harmony was important, but it actually followed the private sector's lead. An article that was published on October 23, 2011 resurfaced in October 2020. Members of the private sector took note and started to implement the main strategy mentioned in the articles. Within two months of such implementation those organisations started to see not only a 80 per cent to 90 per cent increase in their productivity, but they were able to also use the strategy to socially and physically separate their workers within the same old small spaces in ways they were not able to do before. This literally prevented any on-the-job transfer of the coronavirus.

With this model being adopted by more and more companies, the economic boom was evident and Jamaica became the tenth country in the western hemisphere to completely eradicate the coronavirus. The Government took note, listened to the wise counsel of its private sector organisations, and implemented the strategy that was articulated in the article.

This newspaper article from 2011 was the coverage of a speech of mine while being CEO of the then GSB (now FHC) Credit Union. I was speaking to students, young adults, and entrepreneurs at a Hamilton Knight & Associates (HKA) careers and lifestyle function. I advised the gathering of the one thing on which I would focus were I appointed prime minister for a day. I challenged “the Government, Opposition and the private sector to take the bold step to open Jamaica for business 24/7, 365 (24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year)”. This one suggestion changed it all.

In this Jamaica Observer article, entitled 'Create a multi-shift country to end poverty, says credit union boss', by Luke Douglas, I was quoted as saying: “Jamaica, believe it or not, has excess capacity in many areas, and these are being underutilised and even wasted… If Jamaica could create a safe environment and have public transport running throughout the night, there could be up to three shifts in factories, schools, businesses, and the courts. With this change we could educate at least twice the number of students in the same number of buildings. We wouldn't be talking about finding money to build another 30, 40, 50 schools. The result would be more jobs in the transport and retail sectors, in education, manufacturing, and in the legal system, and smaller class sizes in schools.”

Smaller class sizes in schools was one major key that, 10 years after the 2011 article, unlocked the door to social distancing in schools, so children could return to physical classrooms in 2021, after the doors were locked by COVID-19 in 2020.

Jamaica, the country that never sleeps, now operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days for the year. Government offices, schools, banks, police stations, airports, restaurants, supermarkets, shopping centres and malls, factories, courts, the Jamaica Stock Exchange, the Bank of Jamaica, food markets, doctors, lawyers, dentists, accounting firms, business coaches and consultants, and other public and private organisations all joined in. One such business, coaching and consulting firm Sure Profits Academy Company Limited, stated in 2020 that, “We can find any Jamaican small business over $1 million in under 45 minutes, guaranteed.” It not only did that with over 5,000 businesses, but it also trained 3,000 business coaches to implement those strategies in micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. The under-utilised intellectual capital of many Jamaicans rapidly expanded, as they started and operated their own successful small businesses, with coaching guidance from Sure Profits Academy. Now, many more Jamaicans are achieving their personal and business dreams and contributing to the growth and development of Jamaica, which is now more effectively capitalising on business in countries that are six or 12 hours ahead or behind us. Jamaica has finally tapped into the globalisation that has been driving the world for a few decades now.”

Jamaicans all over realised that we could no longer operate with such limited amount of earning assets and capital, and at the same time be under-utilising these assets. Instead of only focusing on acquiring more and more assets, the public and private sector shifted to start using these assets to their full potential. These asset utilisation strategies, and some impacts, have been as follows:

• Public infrastructure, such as roads, used to be crazy with peak hour traffic in the mornings, at lunchtime, and after work hours. Now, the term “peak hour traffic” is a thing of the past. For six to seven years now, the wasted 14 hours – 9:00 am to 11:00 am, 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, and 9:00 pm to 6:00 am – have been reclaimed, and there is free, but steady traffic flow during these hours, as people move about, go to and from work, do business, and operate a more stress-free life. The roads which once were not enough, without adding much more, have proven to be more than enough. So, instead of focusing only on more roads, the past few years the focus has been mainly on the quality of roads.

• The primary sector, including mining, quarrying, farming, fishing, and forestry, all of which produce raw materials that can be processed in to a finished product, started to work right around the clock, every day. What used to take three days to produce is now produced in one day or less due to efficiency gains. Raw material was being “extracted” and delivered for processing at record levels, but also in very well-structured and sustainable ways to conserve on such natural resources.

• Factories and other entities in the manufacturing sector that produce finished goods from raw materials, including all foods, chemicals, textiles, machines, and equipment, implemented the three-shifts system, and put machines, equipment, factory space, and workers into 24-hour per day production. The morning shift (7:00 am to 3:00 pm) produced goods for local consumption, whereas the evening shift (3:00 pm to 11:00 pm), and the night shift (11:00m to 7:00 am) focused on goods for export or import substitution. This improved our balance of trade, balance of payments, net international reserves (NIR), and stabilised our exchange rate.

• Commercial enterprises, which are mainly non-manufacturing business establishments, including hotels, motels, and restaurants; wholesalers and retail stores; and health, social, and educational institutions, etc, used these same three shifts to trade their goods and services. Money in circulation was doubling every two years, but inflation was kept under control because of the market-clearing level of goods and services being supplied to the markets.

Within two full years of operation, Jamaica not only mopped up the excess unemployment, by training formerly unattached, marginalised, excluded, poor, and uneducated outcasts from society, but the country also had to start importing workers from the wider Caribbean and the Caribbean Diaspora from across the world. Jamaica was no longer a net exporter of educated, talented, dedicated, high-skilled workers, which had previously led to a serious “brain drain”. Instead, Jamaica became, and remains, a net importer of these talents, as many Jamaicans returned to contribute to their beloved country the way they had long desired to.

The demand for social services to supply this rapidly growing expatriate community, often with sophisticated tastes, resulted in even more demand for service excellence and efficiencies, upgrading and upskilling of local customer service practices, business operations, and the labour force.

The need for accommodation, for example, resulted in seven consecutive years of rapid growth in the real estate sector. Many hotels were converted into apartment complexes to satisfy the demand for longer-term housing, even with hundreds of apartment buildings being built. The construction sector is booming, and financial mortgages sector is world-class, and the overall health of housing in Jamaica is excellent.

Of course, the rapid rise in the upskilling of the workforce resulted in the formerly “unemployables”, who were lost in a life of crime, poverty, and social exclusion, being gainfully employed and finally have something to live for. They can now dream of a life in which their children will be safe, fed, clothed, educated, and cared for, as those children also look forward to almost guaranteed full employment and achieving their fullest potential.

Opportunistic crimes that were motivated by hunger and dire need are at historic lows. Violent crimes, such a murders, assaults occasioning bodily harm, and many crimes of passion, are now too low to cause any alarm. Government, private sector, citizens, started to realise that many crimes are caused by the absence of hope, not just the absence of money, food, or good parenting. As such, the various stakeholder groups in civil society started to collaborate with the Government to simply create the hope for good. They finally realised that a good country is not only able to detect and solve crimes with alacrity and sophistication, but that a great country is the one that is able to prevent crimes in the first place. The first is crime management, the latter is crime leadership, and can only be achieved with a full-society collaboration. The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) was dismantled, as it was founded on the premise of securing the wealth of the rich planter class in the early post-slavery years, and that culture had not inherently changed in over 200 years. The Jamaica Peace Agency (JPA) has replaced it and is now highly integrated within society and communities. It has all the intelligence it needs, is well-resourced, and has excellent working conditions for its peace officers (formerly police officers). Children once more not only dream of joining the agency, but have been enrolling in their high school elective courses (peace and you, how to become a peace officer, the importance of peace officers, etc), and joining the agency in droves. Whereas in 2020, the ratio of police to 1,000 citizens was about four; now, that ratio is 10 peace officers to every 1,000 citizens. Our peace officers are experts in helping citizens to achieve personal mastery, as outlined in the book Personal Mastery – Maximise Your Potential Now! Most noteworthy, is their influence on early childhood culture and respect for law and order.

The first president of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Allen, when he was first appointed as governor general in 2009, had famously noted that, “I believe that there is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica.” This apparently became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Jamaicans started to truly believe in themselves. In fact, many joined his “I Believe” campaign and started to provide social services and other goodwill gestures and services across Jamaica and the Caribean. In 2021, the Caribbean Association of Governors General & Presidents (CAGGP) created the “I believe in the Caribbean” campaign. Sir Allen's popularity grew.

It was therefore natural that Queen Elizabeth II, as one of her final official duties related to Jamaica, by way of royal executive powers, appointed Sir Patrick Allen as the country's interim president, after she pre-emptively invoked the secession of all Caribbean Commonwealth members from the British Commonwealth. This has become popularly known as the Caribbean Brexit. She stated that, “Jamaica has proven that it is now a really mature country and is leading the region to unparalleled levels of growth and stability, and Sir Patrick Allen is the region's governor of governors.” The interim presidents across the region served until their respective national constitutions were amended, their country became a republic, and presidential elections were held.

The United States of the Caribbean (USC) succeeded Caricom, and the regional bloc of countries became a full political and economic union, with one currency (The Caribu) across the independent states. The island of Jamaica is now the capital of the USC.

All of this officially started with the systematic implementation of the one idea: Jamaica 24/7s, the country that never sleeps!

Speaking about sleeping, it is time that I wake up from this very possible dream and start playing my part in advancing the welfare of Jamaicans and the whole human race. I have to resist the temptation of saying this is just a wild, utopian fantasy. Instead, I will ask: Who do I need to be to get help with this? What do I need to do to make this a reality? Whom will I become if I proactively and completely commit to doing everything in my power to make this dream come true?

How about you? What will you do? The ball is now in your court. See you in 2030 when we will agree that Jamaica is indeed a “place of choice to live, work, raise families, do business”, and positively impact the world.

Courtney Lodge is president and CEO of Sure Profits Academy Company Limited.

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