A happy New Year to all our readers. I wish you all a healthy and successful 2019, and urge us all to be action people, rather than being talkers. Forget Donald Trump and the media circus over which we have no control, and focus on events within our control.
We have so many non-partisan challenges to overcome in the process of our growth as a nation, and as communities, families, and individuals, so let us make an early start for our own success.
In December I gave my best friend and his wife two photographs as a small Christmas gift. Both were done by members of the Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation in Parade Gardens and De la Vega City who are part of our photography club. These young people do excellent work and some previous members have established services for all kinds of events. Others have won awards in various national competitions.
One depicted a view of the sea through a hole in a brick wall, and the location was Port Royal. The other was of a person walking through a beautiful row of flowering trees in the shade on a well paved road, and the location was Hope Gardens.
In looking at the works I was immediately reminded in the first instance of an arrival point where pirates, slavers, and slaves made their way into what is now Jamaica. The calm sea setting belies the once vibrant and often rowdy life that was a part of the “sinful city” of history and folklore.
It was a logistics hub; a repository of gold and silver; a place for skilled artisans; shipboard employment; bars and brothels; ships supplies and repairs; and rearmament. In a single centre, prior to the earthquake, it served as an alternative to the ministries of: Health; Water; Industry and Commerce; Justice; Security; Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Tourism; Defence; the PM’s Office; the Port Authority; and the Bank of Jamaica. As Oliver Samuels might say, “It was large”.
The second photograph struck me as a way forward to the place my friend defines as NAGIS (not a ghetto in sight) and the solitary figure walking calmly in a place of peace, beauty, and serenity, represents the words with which we describe our 2030 vision for Jamaica. Yes, talk is cheap but progress requires great effort.
This year, 2019, requires a serious focus, for when this year closes we will only have a window of 10 years to fulfill our strategic goals. Thus far our progress has been mixed and the areas have been macroeconomic; microeconomic; and social. Not all have been addressed in equal measure, but all are inter-dependent and essential if our vision is to be achieved.
Both political parties have claimed and have been applauded for sticking with the IMF measures that have done a lot for stability in the economy. But this has not resulted in the growth that approaches 5 in 4, and this is the year to achieve this goal. It is a time to prove that this is possible as we need to believe that we can achieve 10% between 2020 and 2030 in order to fulfill our goals for making Jamaica a better place moving towards first world status.
So macroeconomic policies alone can produce considerable fiscal restraint and build confidence. I commend them, but remind them that if your horse is behind when approaching the finish line that is not the time to apply the brakes. It is time to ride and this is 2019.
The microeconomic arena belongs to and is consistently claimed by the private sector. “Free up and watch the economy grow” has been a 40-plus year clarion that has failed to perform. Their only achievement has been a radical improvement in corporate governance which has resulted in much less corruption when compared to the Government. So systems and management exist, but still the trade deficit continues to grow.
This poor performance has been manifested in areas such as: lack of invention/innovation; unimaginative managers versus entrepreneurs; the introduction of many self-imposed illogical rules and restraints; reluctance to merge/cooperate; in all situations
Unlike the Government, who has externally monitored performance standards, outside of listed companies, the vast proportion of the private sector is unsupervised by shareholders and stakeholders and the deficiencies in their performance is self-imposed. As long as they meet their basic needs and some luxuries, like homes and cars, they are complacent. Rip Van Winkles, it is 2019, and time to wake up from the 50-year-old dream that Government owes you a living.
The general society is strained by the unequal distribution of both income and opportunity. The resentment leads to social unrest that affects crime and violence; desperation; drug use; lowered self-esteem and ambition; and low productivity. This in no way suggests that the current education/skills are in keeping with the expectations for an equitable status. Work ethics, reliability and consistency are also factors that impact productivity and the levelling of the skewed share of the pie.
The result is a working population that is challenged by birth status, lack of strong family values, poor housing, and inadequate education across the board, discrimination, and inefficient healthcare. This must be a limiting factor.
For the three categories there is no immediate answer, or silver bullet, but the roots of the problems must be accepted in 2019 if we are to give ourselves a clear 10 years to work on our strategic plan. There is no more time for complacency, inaction, lethargy, inefficiency, or any delaying tactics.
This is 2019. Start your engines.