Here lies my hope for changeTuesday, October 19, 2021
BY MARCUS WHITE
THIS piece will start with a trip down memory lane.
It was 1962. With the combined efforts of Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley, among others in Jamaica, the Caribbean, and abroad, Jamaica had made itself independent (on paper) from our old colonial master, Great Britain, the nation that has been the subject of every nation's hatred – including the US that revolted against it – in its colonial heyday.
We were hopeful of the country's prospects for being a model independent nation that would be a prosperous and industrious country, built on progress, free from the exploitation of the British Empire with which we shared a bitter past of slavery and abuse.
Fast-forward to present day. I was playing a game and one of the characters in the game said, “Sometimes I wish we had a king or queen so that people couldn't constantly bug me about voting.” And, while I may be a strong advocate for democracy – economic, political, and civic liberty and Independence – and hold high respect for our national heroes, in this case, I had to agree with said virtual character. It made me reconsider if our Independence was worth it.
As I said, while I believe in freedom and independence, I believe that responsibility comes with it. If we want to be the nation to live, work, raise families and to do business, then we must have responsible citizens and a responsible Government representing them to ensure a good society that facilitates the flourishing of its citizens. By the looks of it, we don't have much of either and we seem to have two Jamaicas – one where the grass is green and life is easy, and another where life is poor, nasty, derelict, brutish, and quite short.
Our self-governance experience has not improved our lot. I rarely see the difference between having one, seemingly uncaring, Queen giving pretty, empty speeches thousands of miles away versus having a couple uncaring politicians giving pretty, empty speeches one or two miles away from me in a country which still has said Queen as head of state in our constitution and the governor general as her agent.
Let this be the last obituary of a Jamaican citizen's hope for change, for reforms, for anything tangible coming out of our political representatives.
According to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) statistics, crime has broken the 1,000 mark since the 1990s after a steady rise throughout the 20th century and it hasn't seemed to budge; in fact, the criminals seem to get younger and younger as time passes.
Recently, I heard that Opposition spokesman on national security Peter Bunting was troubled by the crime rate. Too bad he wasn't troubled when he was in charge of that ministry.
This isn't an appraisal of the Jamaica Labour Party Administration (JLP) either. However, like the People's National Party (PNP) Administration before them, they, too, seem to have no plan to manage crime other than green-lighting states of emergency (SOEs) and zones of special operation (ZOSOs), which only seem to change the distribution of crime because they are shuffled around, but not the actual crime rate itself. Neither is it a way of letting citizens off the hook, as the “informa fi dead” culture and a culture that glorifies crime and garrisons that sometimes aid crime also hurt the society.
Economic downturn due to the novel coronavirus pandemic has hit us hard, and inflation has worsened.
The Bank of Jamaica has raised interest rates on commercial banks, which will translate into an increase in interest rates on car loans, variable interest mortgage loans, and business loans, which may hurt businesses, especially micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and the middle class that may own cars and real estate with debt financing. The poor, who already have problems with accessing credit on their own, along with inflation wiping out their meagre purchasing power supplemented by their work and whatever informal activities they may engage in, will be hit hard, thereby creating fertile ground from which criminals can recruit.
Add to that mental illness, social decay, and other social and economic issues and, in short order, the other Jamaica that is already like a wilderness will become like the surface of Mars – barren and uninhabitable.
Where is the Government in all of this? Why, they have their own problems, corruption being a significant one.
The PNP has had its share of scandals such as the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) and Trafigura, which is yet to be cleared up. The JLP also has its share, such as PetroJam, Caribbean Maritime University, Airports Authority of Jamaica, and the more recent ones being Floyd Green and Andrew Bellamy's little getaway, and Ruel Reid still drawing a taxpayer-funded salary.
Meanwhile, the PNP is busy with its internal power grab and disunity, and it seems the party's only function is to troll the Government on its management of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as if it could do any better, considering their bungled response to outbreaks of the mosquito-transmitted viruses Zika and CHIKV.
The PNP has gone from being a strong parliamentary Opposition, under Portia Simpson Miller, to being a fractured, glorified social media troll, with a reality show to boot.
The JLP brags of their 49-14 victory and a possible political monopoly brought about by a fraction of the population (63 per cent didn't vote). I am one of the people who didn't bother to vote because my parents voted for “prosperity” and one of my aunts for “progress” for years, but neither has experienced of these; in fact, I could argue that our lives have got worse over time.
The ballot is populated by two archaic parties whose members continue to flirt with corruption. They have very little solutions, offer empty promises, make vague statements and set numerous goals of which few are ever achieved.
The other parties on the fringes aren't even much better, with one wanting a theocratic monarchy and the other, which used to show some promise, turned into a conspiracy theory-peddling party that has decided to play games in the name of freedom, with none of the responsibility attached. While I may be against their leader's arrest as this heavy-handed approach will surely make the populace a bit more agitated, their platform is quite vague.
So, here lies my hope for Jamaica, Vision 2030, and change. It finally died in 2021 from COVID-19 and the underlying causes have been previously discussed.
I no longer hope for any positive change and I am no longer a proud Jamaican, as I used to be. All I have to say at this point is that there are two Jamaicas – one that is paradise and the other that is like the Sahara Desert.
I cannot, as a young Jamaican, focus on Vision 2030 and hope for change when I have to watch my parents' purchasing power deteriorate, while young adolescents die around me or kill others around me, and I wonder if I will survive.
I have to focus on trying to get out of the ghetto with my parents – nothing more.