Colonialism ought not to be blamed for our missteps
Yellow Tape/Crime Scene

Botswana, Barbados, and South Korea are all relatively young countries, like Jamaica, but the difference is that these countries did not suffer the indignities of garrison politics and political ineptitude.

Academics and multilateral agencies often attribute the success of these places to higher levels of social capital, institutional efficiency, and pragmatic leadership. Moreover, intellectual icon Orlando Patterson, in his books and articles, has provided explanations for the divergent paths traversed by Jamaica and Barbados. Like others, Patterson contends that Bajan success is hinged on superior institutional capabilities.

Bitter pills are hard to swallow, but the reality is that political administrations have squandered opportunities to actualise Jamaica’s potential. Jamaica’s crime problem is primarily a result of garrison politics and its costs are widely diffused throughout society.

According to the Inter-American Development Bank, over the period 2010-2014, the cost of crime amounted to US$63.2. Estimates compiled by Professor Anthony Clayton are even gorier. His figures indicate that the cost of crime is equivalent to 7.1 per cent of Jamaica’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Plagues like crime, corruption, and an underperforming education system are indeed consequences of defective management. Colonialism is an easy excuse for Jamaican elites to deflect blame for their feckless management; however, the reality is that the legacy of colonialism does not preclude progress. Elite education, the parliamentary system, our legal system, and government institutions are all remnants of colonialism.

Many studies have shown the pros and cons of colonialism and growing literature asserts that, on average, British colonies are better off. We can pinpoint specific examples of colonial imprints that impede development, like the creation of commodity boards that regulate agricultural produce in the Caribbean and Africa. Unfortunately, such institutions still exist due to the socialist mindset of post-Independence leaders. For instance, it is highly unlikely that the Government will abolish Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA), despite the complaints of entrepreneurs.

Furthermore, there is the flawed assumption perpetuated by Jamaican elites that colonial legacies are automatically negative when the truth is more complicated. Jamaicans are exposed to a superior quality of life precisely because their ancestors were enslaved by Europeans. Africa has been behind the institutional and technology curve for centuries and, other than expertise in iron-making, Africans could not compete with Europe and Asia. Moreover, most slaves shipped to Jamaica were illiterate and only acquired competence when they were taught to read by Christian missionaries or benevolent planters. Additionally, a more contentious point is that the Tainos were never on par with the sophisticated civilisations of the Americas, so as a result of colonialism Jamaica is relatively richer.

Instead of admitting that Jamaica made missteps in the past, politicians and their intellectual collaborators prefer to inculcate resentment by fabricating the history of colonialism. They are so desperate to paint colonialism in a negative light that the current sentiment is that the dress code for Parliament should be revised since it is a relic of colonialism. Jamaicans do not care if female parliamentarians choose to go sleeveless or if the men wear Kariba suits. When American legislators are busy considering the Secure 2.0 Bill to avert a retirement crisis, in a poorer country, politicians are criticising a globally embraced dress code on the basis that it is a relic of colonialism. Obviously, the average parliamentarian is incapable of contributing to meaningful debates, and since Jamaicans are rarely pleased with the performance of Members of Parliament (MPs), now is the time to ditch MPs and councillors.

For proper management, Jamaica only requires a prime minister, his Cabinet, and maybe a Senate. Citizens should be granted the right to vote for any member of either party to become the prime minister and, upon appointment, this person will select a Cabinet, whose members can be drawn from non-political circles. This arrangement would weaken garrisons and limit the scope for pork-barrel politics. Rather than ditching The Queen, Jamaicans must divert attention to dumping ineffective politicians who only succeed at pandering to an uneducated underclass. People like Andrew Holness, Julian Robinson, Nigel Clarke, Kamina Johnson Smith, Mark Golding, Olivia Grange, Delroy Chuck, and a few others can stay in politics, but most politicians are unserious and their involvement in politics is creating innumerable obstacles to progress.

lo_matthews@yahoo.com

LIPTON MATTHEWS

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