MONTEGO BAY, St James – Blasting politicians for lack of leadership, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) John Mahfood has added his voice to the howls of condemnation of a statement attributed to deputy mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Richard Vernon that Jamaicans who migrate are cowards.
Speaking Wednesday at the official launch of western Jamaica's largest business tradeshow – the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Expo 2022 – Mahfood argued that if given the opportunity, many Jamaicans would migrate in search of greener pastures.
"There was an unfortunate comment made recently about people who leave Jamaica being cowards and that might have been a misstatement and an error. But the fact is that the situation in Jamaica is very serious, in terms of the economic situation, and we can't blame anybody... any young person or any poor person who wants to leave," Mahfood said.
At the same time, he argued that since Independence the lack of strong leadership has been the greatest impediment to growth.
"Do our leaders display the courage and commitment that we are proud of, is my question. And how many Jamaicans will leave for the sake of a better life in the US, if given the chance? How many Jamaicans are prepared to sacrifice for their country and their leaders?
"Our leaders make grand pronouncements but they don't follow through. The last election you heard about five in four... it [election] might have been the one before. It was an election message; it died quietly. No explanation of why it died, why it did not succeed. What were the lessons learned?" he asked.
"We talk about Vision 2030, it is a long way away, but it is at a very serious risk of failing as well."
"We talk about another election promise, reducing crime so that you can sleep at night with your windows open. Why make comments just for the sake of running your mouth if you know that you are not going to do anything about it?
"You talk about changing education so that every Jamaican has a shot at a good life. We signed an accord with civil society called CMOC (Crime Monitoring Oversight Commission) but the minister of security does not attend the meetings. We had the Zacca Report that talked about what to do with Petrojam. The conclusion was to close it because it was inefficient. You could buy finished petroleum products at a cheaper price; it was ignored. Why have a commission, ignore it and don't explain why?" he questioned.
He argued that political leaders will listen if influential individuals in the society publicly speak out against them.
"People who have influence need to talk to politicians, need to speak up in public. The only thing the politicians hear is when we say things in public. We Jamaicans like to whisper because we think that when you tell them your opinions privately it means something. It doesn't mean nothing," the JMEA president argued.
Expo 2022 will be staged at the Montego Bay Convention Centre from November 4 to 6.
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