A new year's wish for Jamaica
Henley Morgan

In his last public address to an annual conference of the People's National Party (PNP), the late National Hero Norman Washington Manley spoke these words: "I say that the mission of my generation was to win self-government for Jamaica, to win political power, which is the final power for the black masses of my country from which I spring. I am proud to stand here today and say to you who fought that fight with me, say it with gladness and pride, 'Mission accomplished for my generation'. And what is the mission for this generation? It is reconstructing the social and economic society and life of Jamaica."

That speech by the venerable PNP founder and national hero is a useful benchmark against which to measure the progress of the country under succeeding governments as we embark on a new year full of expectations and possibilities. There is, however, a problem in arriving at a consensus as to where the country is along its development trajectory. Progress, like love, is in the eye of the beholder and nothing blinds a person to what is really happening like politics does.

In Jamaican politics, hardly anyone supporting the party in power challenges the status quo publicly. Conversely, those whose party is out of power are often blinded to any good that could be attributable to the Government. But, in private, there is murmuring from both sides of the political divide. People instinctively understand that we have fallen into a pit out of which we seem unable to climb by our own strength or conventional means. It is a dangerous place for any country to find itself when trust and confidence in Government's ability to deliver on the expectations of the populace has evaporated.

The question remains: Has the generation since Norman Manley achieved social and economic justice? With every change of Government, we hope that deliverance will come. But political rhetoric and promises continue to outdistance actions towards halting the slide. Caught in a downward spiral of inappropriate economic and social models, a civil society immobilised by fear of the consequences of criticising those who hold power, and a citizenry preoccupied with the daily rigours of survival we continue along a path that produces results we do not want, lack of economic inclusiveness and social inequity.

We may not have great essayists like Jonathan Swift, Thomas Paine, and Henry David Thoreau, whose sharp wit and unflinching determination challenged the status quo and brought change to society in their day. We certainly do not have any modern-day William Wilberforce, John Knox, Marcus Garvey, or Martin Luther King Jr with the courage to inspire a movement and speak truth to power. But there are a few voices crying in the wilderness in support of the cause to see social and economic justice come to Jamaica.

Development leader and policymaker in the Jamaican Government Kingsley Thomas played such a role and put the country's political leadership under the microscope with the following biting comment in an interview, which appeared in The Gleaner on July 3, 2022. He said, inter alia, "We have taken a wrong road and we have not had the courage to turn back and take another road. The road we are on is clearly not a road of progress. It's not a road for improving the quality of life for the majority of people. There is a veneer of prosperity that you see in the high-end motor cars and big apartments going up, but that is not the true indicator of development. What has caused us not to achieve the level of development, employment, growth creation, social cohesion — which is very critical — is the political leadership."

For its Friday, July 1, 2022 editorial, the Jamaica Observer, as if in agreement, used the headline: 'Jamaica needs unified, visionary, exemplary leadership'. Who for political or other reasons could deny this?

Much of what passes for leadership today is a sham. Looking at the many natural and other endowments of this blessed country and contrasting it with the widespread poverty, hopelessness, and strife one would be left to conclude that Jamaica suffers from an insufficiency of leadership, not only in politics but also at every level of society.

My new year's wish for Jamaica, land we love, is that decisive steps will be taken towards creating a new Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business — the Jamaica that is so boldly envisioned and enunciated by the country's Vision 2030.

Dr Henley Morgan is founder and executive chairman of the Trench Town-based Social Enterprise, Agency for Inner-city Renewal and author of My Trench Town Journey - Lessons in Social Entrepreneurship and Community Transformation for Policy Makers, Development Leaders, and Practitioners. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or hmorgan@cwjamaica.com

Henley Morgan

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