It's time to take a different path, Jamaica
We need an urgent plan to structurally transform Jamaica's economy.

At the start of 2021 I took the time to walk back to myself; an offline private activity that has been most beneficial to me — and can be to you if you try it. This journey has helped me to get to know myself even better.

On reflection, I am proud of what I have accomplished. Yes, there are some things I could have done better, but, for the most part, I did what I could and I will continue on the same path.

I want to pass on three lessons that this journey has taught me in hopes that they may help someone else:

1) Be true to who you are and don't be apologetic about investing in "Brand You". After all, you are your competition, and it's time you outdid yourself.

2) When your presence creates no value, your absence will go unnoticed. With the advent of globalisation, supported now by supreme web and digital technology, the jobs today won't exist tomorrow, and the skills that will always be valued are those that can differentiate and continue to innovate. Therefore, you will be left behind if you don't continuously upskill and upgrade your knowledge.

3) Change your circle if it cannot support or encircle you towards your goals or accomplishments. Without a genuine team, you'll never get anywhere far nor fast.

We now live in a world in which it would seem you don't matter; if what you are doing is not seen; and if it's not liked, shared, clicked, double-tapped, or commented on, then you or the event never happened. This need for immediate digital validation by others often forces many people to be something that they are not, something less alive and authentic, all because they want to fit into a world shaped by a few who cannot accommodate all of their individuality.

"A social media trend that's recently taken over TikTok features people sharing videos or photos from travelling abroad with the overlaying text: "I'll make my money back, but I'll never…" The blank at the end goes something like "…swim on a secluded beach in Albania again". (Erin Lowry, July 2022)

Young people should appreciate that there can be beauty even in being silent and invisible, knowing that "it's not the noise in the market" that's important, but rather "the genuine performance", which is the achievement of one's objectives.

At the beginning of 2022 I did not do the ordinary to wish everyone a generic "Happy New Year" amid all the adverse effects plaguing our country from crime, inflation, poverty, a stretched health sector, and two years of an inadequate education system. Instead, I challenged us not just to celebrate but focus on the hard-working people, as much of Jamaica's future would depend on preparation and fearlessness, not on chance or a game of "pitch and toss".

Now that the first half of the year is behind us, it has been challenging, and the next six months will be even more so, rather than less complicated. Increased interest rates, less disposable income, higher commodity prices, and higher budget deficits are the legacies of COVID-19, now exacerbated by global inflation.

With the rate of change fuelling an expanded Internet and the rapid assimilation of artificial intelligence controlling financial services and banking, the world will look and feel very different over the next decade. Jamaica is lagging.

Tomorrow, on August 1, our nation will celebrate Emancipation Day as we push forward to celebrate 60 years of Independence on August 6. What will our mission be as a people, as a country?

Unlike personal goals, preparing a Government to take advantage of future opportunities requires bold and decisive leadership to build the most competent team, investing in Brand Jamaica to create long-term value and continuous innovation for Jamaicans.

Can we find a way to finally make it right?

In one of my favourite James Ingram songs, Just Once, he laments: "Just once can we figure out what we keep doin' wrong, Why we never last for very long? Just once, can we find a way to finally make it right? To make the magic last for more than just one night? If we could just get to it, I know we could break through it…"

We've been approaching the concept of national growth and development the same way for the last 60 years. It's time to take a different path.

Let us focus solidly on implementing these three goals over the next 10 years.

Goal 1: Restructuring the Jamaican economy towards a more equitable distribution of the economic pie to all Jamaicans.

Economic growth has eluded most of our people; even though companies on the Jamaica Stock Exchange are showing record profits, especially banks, the ordinary Jamaican still has difficulty making ends meet. Moreover, the largest banks and insurance companies now operating in Jamaica are foreign-owned, while many hotels are offshore owned. Therefore, we must do more to put Jamaicans at the centre of our investment activities.

We need an urgent plan to structurally transform Jamaica's economy into an internationally competitive, value-added export country focusing on products and services to identify a global competitive advantage, controlling all the inputs on our value chain from raw materials to finished goods.

Goal 2: Develop and implement an effective "four-stage, integrated, prevention system" to tackle the socio-economic root causes of crime.

A part of this will be to aid our populace's cognitive, psychosocial, and physiological growth and development that provides equal opportunities for all Jamaicans with targeted behavioural interventions, especially for individuals between zero to six years old.

Murders in Jamaica can be brought down within 15 years if scientific approaches are used to handle violence, with preventative, structural, and long-lasting programmes on both the individual and community levels: "Education and training, with parenting skills, mentorship, and alternative justice interventions while providing economic opportunities that afford ontological security to all" are urgently vital, informed social anthropologist and lecturer Dr Herbert Gayle.

Consequently, we must create the budget to provide more avenues to support our women and men with ongoing parenting and life-coping skills. These programmes should educate them to better plan only for children they can care for while giving them increased access to beneficial child guidance clinics.

Goal 3: Provide universal access to a globally competitive, quality education for all Jamaicans, at every level.

This will require significant investment to adjust our school's curricula to increase more technical skills offerings and the teaching of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the creative industries and performing arts, Jamaican history, Garveyism, and agriculture.

If each of us on Independence Day resolves to be stronger, be authentic, and develop reciprocal respect for each other, we can create a better Jamaica for the next generation. Accordingly, I will remain committed to completing impactful constituency projects while courageously lobbying in Parliament on crucial areas of focus, such as improving Jamaica's economic future, trade, women's health rights, and foreign affairs, while fostering bipartisan unity on programmes and projects in the best interest of Jamaica.

As we celebrate our 60th anniversary of Independence, it's time to take a different path, Jamaica.

Have a safe, reflective, and empowering Independence season.

Lisa Hanna is Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern, People’s National Party spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade, and a former Cabinet member.

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Lisa Hanna

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