The Asianisation to JamaicaWednesday, October 29, 2014
BY JEFFERY WRIGHT
RECENTLY, while travelling and shopping in some of Jamaica's major towns, it became shockingly clear that the cream of the nation's retail and wholesale business sector are owned by Asians. Many of whom speak or understand only few words of English. Yet, never more than twice did any opportunity present itself for me to hand over the usual fistfuls of the nation's beaten-down dollar to a business operated by anyone having same African features such as myself, even though, 90 per cent of the nation's 3-million inhabitants are of African origin. It's as if the descendants of Marcus Garvey -- champion of self-reliance -- had ignored his teachings. More depressing is the configuration in most supermarkets, where Asian store managers are elevated behind glass partitions keeping a watchful eye on both shoppers and workers alike, conjuring up images from a throwback period when masters scrutinised every twitch of their plantation labourers.
But many Jamaicans today are simply slaving for the motherland's dollar -- sprinting downhill faster than the nation's 100m Olympic goal medalist. These hard-earned dollars are then recycled into goods imported to the island by Asian merchants, to complete a modern day triangular passage.
There is a belief embedded into the psychology of Afro-Caribbean communities that, for the most part, we is incapable of balancing risks/rewards effectively into creating wealth; hence the region's post-independence economic decline. As a result, the governments, in panic mode, hand over the country's economic levers to foreigners at will -- in some case agreeing not to collect any taxes from these tycoons for up to 10 years. At the same time, citizens are burdened under the nation's two-trillion-dollar debt load. Unemployment is north of 15 per cent, and double that number for the nation's youth.
Jamaica's Government, in a desperate effort to stimulate growth, is having the country's potential romanced away by these knights of commerce -- riding into the nation, taking over, without an ounce of obligation to provide training of the local population in business leadership or senior management. This is hard core 1980s trickle-down Reaganomiccs capitalism, rooted in greed without compassion -- where, at minimum, a portion of a corporation's vision should be in cadence with the social vibration of the community it serves. Every schooled army general knows the benefit of applying this technique after conquering a nation.
Yet, the autonomous currency of citizenship for average Jamaicans is being devalued faster than the nation's dollar, robbing the culture of its confidence. While it's difficult to label Marcus Garvey's descendants docile, it's obvious that under this heavy dread of revoked self-sovereignty, many continue hastening to the US embassy for exit visas. Others are fleeing to other curriculum nations, quitting the blessed land of wood and water.
Maybe Jamaica has a quid pro quo policy, which is more than setting up jerk centres in Beijing or Mumbai. However, I am sceptical: "If I were to open a supermarket like this one, in Mumbai, would the people support me as they do you here in Jamaica?" I asked an Indian business operator, few doors down from a popular hotel, across the street from a cambio, in Montego Bay.
"You would be successful, very successful," he answered quickly, "Mumbai is a multicultural city..." he continued almost defensively in Punjabi accent. I felt my heavy head nodding apprehensively as I handed him three $100 bills, for two vegetarian patties and left.
But as I walked along the city's Hip Strip, glancing over my shoulders, scanning both sides of the street without success, for a business owner of my ilk in one of those stores, crammed with tourist memorabilia, I reflected on the awful racial epithets hurled at Lou Jing -- a talented black Chinese girl from Shanghai singing on one of those reality shows few years ago -- and disagreed with the Indian fellow whose patties I was enjoying.
Indeed, the full force of Marcus Garvey's self-confidence philosophy is in full swing, but the axe is against his descendants chopping down their dreams. It is disappointing that business disposition and operations in Jamaica is mirroring most African-American dominated cities, where owners are Afghanis, Iranians, and Koreans.
Yes, Jamaica, located inside such strong socioeconomic orbit of United States should have learned its lesson, and long ago strived for strategic business partnerships and equally robust people development. Instead, the country's ruling elites trumpet its motto: "Out of many, one people," as if the nation's up for ownership to everyone from other parts of the world. When in fact the nation's motto -- one of the world's best core values, woven into its culture -- is a calling for all Jamaicans, no matter what creed, colour or where they are, to come together to build a unified nation.
No doubt the people are a strong bunch, with a colourful history of different races, which had fought together for their freedom all the way from the Maroons to the Morant Bay rebellion. But now there's great danger; a new breed of foreign tax-vacationing tycoons are on the island, outwitting politicians and, no doubt, crafting loopholes to escape their tax responsibilities when time comes to pay.
Obviously, Jamaica's two political clubs of quasi-autocratic ruling elites are fortresses against new ideas. And the meagre backbone of ambitious and competitive class forges ahead, along, up the middle between a Parliament of dolittle but eloquent speakers and the masses who are bred to be faithful to everyone and everything east, west, north and south of the island. It's inside this wide open unblessed chasm -- philosophically equivalent to a child, indoctrinated early that she was ugly, and therefore grew into a proverbial woman of low self-confidence, gritless to stand in adulation of her own beauty obvious to everyone except herself -- inside this vacuum of self-assurance autonomy, the Government hands over unspoiled Goat Islands to Chinese manufacturing czars to be engineered into their own industrial playground.
And so, it's the patriotic duty of every citizen to revoke lifetime memberships bequeathed to these careless politicians, who are incapable of standing up for this beautiful island and its people, by inaugurating a new and better class of leaders, capable of securing a better standard of living for future generations without selling off the country.
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