Include yourself in the reshuffle, prime minister
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

Dear Editor,

Prime Minister Andrew Holness's 2022 new year's resolution, as reported, is to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle. This is his constitutional and political prerogative as prime minister and party leader. I am sure he would agree with me that his obligation to the Jamaican people is not only to lead, but also to set a good example by applying his assessment of the performance of his Cabinet minister's to himself.

On the last day of 2021, long-time vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) Dr Lucien Jones described the 2021 fatality count as an absolute disaster. Dr Jones promised improvement in 2022 if legislative and technical reforms were implemented.

No, this is not another call for transport minister and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Chairman Robert Montague to be reassigned away from the transport portfolio. This is a call for the prime minister to relinquish his ceremonial role as chairman of the NRSC and address one of the major problems of the Jamaican culture. Many people do not know that the subject of road fatalities is the prime minister's responsibility as chairman of the NRSC.

The fundamental problem is our notorious and ever-increasing bad driving habits and the disastrous effects they cumulatively have on the reality of our national development. The major areas adversely affected are crime, corruption, health, and the every day, every hour examples of the cost and consequences of lawlessness and/or bad decision-making.

The disastrous effects cannot be accurately measured by fatalities, hospitalisations, and effect on gross domestic product (GDP). The major problem, in my opinion, is the negative norms our bad driving instills in our entire population.

Lawlessness is not only accepted but is expected (“a nuh nuttin”), and progresses over time to degrade our interactions with each other, not only on the roads. The reality on the road is “Every man for himself and God for us all”, and the leading deviants are easy to identify.

Prime Minister Holness, this is not personal to you or the JLP. All previous prime ministers and governments have adopted the same ceremonial role on the NRSC, but have never actually taken control or given the Jamaican people an annual status report of the prime minister's stewardship. In contrast, even the ceremonial governor general gives an annual throne speech.

My suggestion is that we create a National Statutory Institution with a specific mandate to co-ordinate road safety in all its facets, adequately staffed, and led by an exceptional executive leader. Please, no more former members of the security forces who are trained to take orders but not to find creative solutions to fundamental problems. No attorneys either, by the way.

But, prime minister, never mind my suggestion, you are our leader.

Your performance as chairman of the NRSC, like that of all prime ministers before you, has been inadequate and counterproductive. You have a uniquely demanding job as the nation's leader, which disqualifies you from this job.

Take the first step and replace yourself as honorary chairman with an exceptional and well-qualified corporate executive for whom this post will be his/her only job. A detailed job description should also accompany the post.

Incidentally, please allow the new executive chairman to choose/recruit the deputy chair so that there is actual change to the status quo.

Happy New Year! 

Jeffrey Mordecai

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