Think big... go global, Jamaica
We must think globally to transform our country into a value-added, export-led economy that sells goods and services to the rest of the world.

I have a confession: When the sectoral debate dates were announced, and the Leader of the Opposition Business showed them to me, I shrugged and gave them back to him. I was not interested this time around. I had felt that we waste our time coming annually to speak and have no way of making any impact, mainly because the process is backward.

In other words, I believe these presentations should be done before the estimates of expenditures to inform where our priorities should be for the next financial year, while establishing a modern bipartisan vision for our country, taking the best suggestions from both sides and coming to a consensus on how the plans to achieving the vision should be funded.

So, yes, I was indifferent to presenting at another annual sectoral debate.

But, despite my reluctance and frustration, I also recognised that it is in moments like these that one has to dig deepest and muster every ounce of courage to get back up again, regardless of personal emotions and feelings.

Why? Because courage has a responsibility.

It may be perceived as unreasonable, and often it requires us to do what's right versus what's expedient, even if it means we should stand alone on our principles. But courage has an obligation to pave new roads, especially for the generations coming behind us — so that when we are gone they can say: "They were ahead of their time."

So, last week I boldly rose again in the Lower House of Parliament for yet another moment — perhaps my last moment — because Jamaica and improving the lives of all Jamaicans is more important than my indignation of resignation to say nothing, especially now.

The truth is the world's geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting daily, impacting human connections globally. Historically, they've been significant moments when they moved. However, those periods were precise, exacting, and loud. They would stop the world. For example, Hitler's invasion of Europe, the assassination of John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, and the attack on the World Trade Center are a few in our lifetimes.

Most recently, it was the novel coronavirus pandemic that altered our existence as we knew it. But, unlike those previous events, which gave us pause for greater self-reflection to regroup and move forward toward better human connectivity, after COVID, things have gone right back to normal, with events moving simultaneously in real-time at an extreme pace.

Today, neither race, geography, class, capital, or global political leadership can stop events from spiralling because of social media.

From Black Lives Matter (BLM), the unending war in Europe between Russia and Ukraine, LGBTQ+ rights, global banks 'too big to fail' crashing, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), global inflation, and right beside us a civil war in Haiti.

There are so many displacing events that have audiences worldwide perplexed. Those who are not disturbed are apathetic and dissonant. I believe these consequences in human behaviour have created gaps in how we live with one another globally, and right here at home, similar to a matrix (alternate universe) that people gravitate to.

Jamaicans are frustrated from hustling daily, waiting on their elected leaders to deliver good water and road, and worrying about how far their salary will carry them for the month.

Many of us, as Members of Parliament, are frustrated, too, recognising how long it takes to deliver essential development to the people who elected us.

Jamaica has been pursuing the same path for a long time without real, meaningful results for our people. Yes, all the statistics indicate that our macroeconomic indicators are heading in the right direction. Our balance sheet seems to be on the right track. Yet significant economic growth still eludes us, and it is all too marginalised, which negatively impacts the purchasing power of most of our people for far too long.

If we continue more of the same it will give us more of the same. I've said repeatedly that we will never have real economic growth and prosperity for our people if we only sell to our 3 million population. We must think globally to transform our country into a value-added, export-led economy that sells goods and services to the rest of the world.

When we look at the changing skyline in Kingston we see massive capital expenditure on commercial and residential construction. But we don't see the economic base which will support the salaries needed to purchase these places and rent the buildings. Without real value-added industries this expenditure is not sustainable.

This capital needs redirection into new and innovative industries that will give Jamaica a global competitive edge. The economic model we have been chasing, expecting small businesses to grow into medium-sized businesses, and, in the long term, become big businesses, is not working!

We cannot compete in trade with small businesses on the world stage. In other words, we cannot ask nor expect small farmers to supply international markets unless we restructure our entire agricultural mindset and have processing plants urgently that meet international standards creating the demand for small farmers to supply.

Our habitual thinking has remained the same. We are holding on to old beliefs and systems that haven't allowed us to make quantum leaps forward as a country. We only have faith in the familiar; never looking for the paradoxical move, never breaking down probable boundaries, and never radically challenging all the odds to present a better version of ourselves.

Our responsibility as policymakers is to create the economic climate and mindset that will grow the Jamaican economy in a way that increases the per capita income for all our citizens. The time to act is now. It is time we take the risk and invest our capital in value-added agriculture, medical/wellness tourism, casinos, and Jamaica as the creative entertainment hub of the world are industries we should aggressively build out.

This is where effective leadership comes in. First, we must have the courage to quell anxiety, reveal the bigger picture, and explain why it is essential to pursue it, seeing uncertainty as an opportunity to shape the future fate of Jamaica.

I am grateful for my opportunities. Thirty years ago I graced the world's stage labelled Jamaican and won. I was born, schooled, and given all my life thus far to Jamaica.

I am Jamaican first — every time — blessed with a feisty courageous spirit, a fierce character imbued with acts of mobilisation with an assertive and unapologetic resolve, and defiant in the face of overpowering opposition that no one should ever bludgeon into acquiescence. My hope is to improve my life and the lives of others.

I am not unique; all of us have this within us. So even though the world is changing rapidly, this is critical moment for us to reset and reposition who we are and what we want.

We have a moment to start listening again, to start acting, to be unabashed about who we are and what we believe in. A moment which must rekindle our soul for global humanity and give our people connected hope for a better future to feel calm about their activism, yet emboldened to fight for causes greater than ourselves as we eschew the hypocrisy of political correctness while building industries to compete globally.

There is a fierce, urgent moment now, and we must seize it. We must have the courage to think big and compete globally. If we continue to turn a blind eye and not care about changing our habitual mindsets to make a quantum leap on behalf of Jamaica then the republic we all seek may look and feel like one belonging to a banana variety.

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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