When Floyd Green was removed from the inner sanctums of the Andrew Holness Cabinet, consequent on his bad judgement and indiscretion in attending a party during a COVID-19 lockdown, I believed then that Holness exercised the right decision.
Like many others, I was disappointed that he had to go as minister of agriculture. He had started to make waves as a young, energetic minister who seemed to understand the often rocky contours of the ministry, no pun intended. He had started certain initiatives which had began to bear fruit, more prominent among them being his encouragement of young people to see agriculture as an enterprise to be taken seriously for a livelihood.
Now, like former Prime Minister P J Patterson of earlier vintage, he has returned to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. I believe this to be a right decision at this time. It is not that Pearnel Charles Jr was not doing a reasonable job at the ministry — he did the best he could — but somehow I did not find that he was well suited for the work of that ministry. I believe that his talents can be best utilised in the spot he now occupies as minister of labour and social security.
Minister Green now has the additional task of mining added to his portfolio. This, I believe, makes eminent sense. It is all earthy! The detachment of mining from the agriculture portfolio over the years may have resulted in the denudation of some of the country's best agricultural lands. St Elizabeth and south Manchester, the acknowledged breadbasket areas of the country, come readily to mind.
Bauxite companies have failed, owing largely to the nonchalance of governmental authorities, to do the proper reclamation of these lands. For where the rich top soils might have been removed during mining, secondary agricultural activity, such as livestock rearing, is possible on good, reclaimed properties. But what you see in many of these mined out areas are gaping holes, rather ponds, which seem lost forever to agricultural use.
Now, a perspicacious minister, having this under his portfolio, can keep this "rape" of the land under surveillance and punish the actors who fail to live up to their lease agreements. This does not only apply to bauxite, the major culprit, but to limestone and sand mining. Furthermore, mining is an environmental concern. The minister will have his work cut out for him in this regard. Not only must he seek to protect primary agricultural lands from degradation, but he must seek to bring some order to the often lawless ways in which aggregates are mined for the construction industry. Agricultural development need not be held hostage by the developmental needs of the country, and the minister must strike the careful balance between these, which really is not too difficult. Largely, it is a matter of the will to do what is right, even from a common-sense perspective.
Jamaica's digital currency
In a country given to disinformation and conspiracy theories, it is not surprising that there is opposition from some quarters to the Government's attempt to introduce a digital currency through the Jam-Dex platform. The same kind of buffoonery was arrayed against COVID-19 vaccines, which many refused to take because of what Bill Gates might have placed in them or because of some extreme religious fanaticism of messianic proportions.
Recently, in a public address, Prime Minister Holness spent some time trying to dispel some of the myths and misinformation about digital currency as legal tender. He was forceful in making the point that its use is 100 per cent optional and that no one was being forced to use it. In other words, no one is being forced to abandon cash as Jamaica is not becoming a cashless society and certainly will not be any time soon.
I have a great deal of patience with those who, out of ignorance, make remarks that may be considered asinine. But I must admit a dearth for those who know better but deliberately set out to mislead others in pursuit of personal or political agendas. They are the kinds of people who force others to continue living in a slow lane. They do not encourage them to switch to a faster lane when this becomes possible and appropriate. Their personalities and worldview seem deeply rooted in the ignorance, if not arrogance, that has come to characterise their lifestyles.
Let us be very clear about it. Jamaica will not become a cashless society in the near future. This does not mean that we should not become conversant with the technological changes that are taking place around us and which will eventually make our lives more progressive. Creating a digital society is not only about keeping in touch with a trend but opening ourselves to the most transformative ways in which we can make our lives better.
Digital literacy is here and, with patience, this is something with which even the so-called small man will identify. As it is democratised across the society, there will be, inevitably, broader participation by our citizens, especially in the use of the digital currency. We must not fear innovation but look out for those who would want to stifle it in service to their thirst for power.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life's Storms; The Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life; and Beyond Petulance: Republican Politics and the Future of America. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.