Doing the right thing at all times
EVEN as we lament the shroud-like effect of violent crime, Jamaicans should take heart on this National Heroes’ Day that there are achievements of which we can all be proud.
Let’s consider, for example, the national economy which was in shambles a decade ago.
Back then, Jamaica appeared on the brink of becoming an economic basket case, with the ratio of debt to gross domestic product (GDP) at close to 150 per cent.
It is to the credit of both our main political parties — while in Government — that with a near-seamless approach to economic management that ratio is now at less than 80 per cent.
The recovery started in 2013 when the then just-over-year-old People’s National Party (PNP) Government agreed to an economic reform programme with lender of last resort, the International Monetary Fund.
The Portia Simpson-led Government, with Dr Peter Phillips as finance minister, exercised the necessary, tough and painful fiscal discipline to establish the platform for recovery.
That work was carried on without a hitch by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government which took power in 2016, led by current Prime Minister Mr Andrew Holness — first with Mr Audley Shaw as finance minister, succeeded in 2018 by Dr Nigel Clarke who commendably took tough decisions and stayed the course amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hence, in his Heroes’ Day message today Mr Holness can boast of “a significantly lower level of national debt”, and “the best international credit rating that we have ever received in our history”. That’s among other notable gains — not least “nine consecutive quarters of economic growth since the pandemic”.
The situation is far from perfect, but since political independence from Britain in 1962 Jamaica has also made significant progress in education, health, infrastructure, social reform, electoral reform, et al, largely due to constructive, progressive leadership from both political parties.
History teaches that today’s Jamaica is firmly rooted in the appallingly cruel and inhumane system of slavery and related self-serving rule by European colonisers, lasting hundreds of years.
Former Prime Minister Mr PJ Patterson spoke true in a discussion with this newspaper’s editors and reporters back in 2012, arguing that, “Most of those who decry the state of affairs [in Jamaica in 2012] have no idea what life was really like in the days when Britannia ruled the waves…”
The national heroes we honour on this day played their part — in some cases gave their lives — to get us to a stage where, though poverty, deprivation and ignorance remain much too prevalent, and crime is intolerable, we are in a far better place than in times past.
Likewise, iconic patriots receiving national awards this morning are making contributions, without which this country would be much the poorer.
Like those boys at BB Coke High School in Junction, St Elizabeth, who lifted a fallen fellow student — when adults around them had lost their heads — and took turns carrying him to a doctor 500 metres away, Jamaicans today should commit themselves to do not just the heroic thing but the right thing, at all times.
Doing the right thing by working together, everyone pulling as one regardless of differences — political or otherwise — is how we will beat criminals and resolve the socio-economic ills plaguing our country.
We should get to it.