Friday, May 18, 2007

Those annoying Jamaicans

I was going to write about the recent economic growth numbers and explain why I do not think Jamaica will grow at the projected 3 percent this year. But my mind was changed by an observation, which is a fundamental reason why we celebrate 2 percent growth when the rest of the world is at 5 percent.

In today’s world the most important unit of production is the individual. It is the individual that drives productivity in a global knowledge-based world. It is the ability of the individual to deliver the best service and create the best product that determines the success of companies and countries. One of the main problems with Jamaica is that perhaps the only thing that has been devalued more than the Jamaican dollar is the Jamaican people. Our politicians since independence have created a system of governance that discounts the primacy of Jamaicans, unless you are of course a politician.

So while the ordinary Jamaican can suffer, like Christ carrying the cross, in our efforts to reach that hilltop we aspire to, the privileged few have established a system where everything is convenient for them, and their close friends and relatives of course. In fact, when we arrive at the hilltop we find that it is used as a place to hoist the cross where we are crucified.

The Promised Land
This image came to my mind as I stopped at the US embassy, in Liguanea, to pick up something from someone who unfortunately had to be in the line. Unfortunate not because they were going to get a US visa but because of the manner that Jamaicans are treated in the process. I stood there for a while observing and felt sorry for the Jamaicans that had to be standing there for hours in the face of the rising sun, awaiting the chance to go to the Promised Land. The impression one gets of course is that us Jamaicans are lesser world citizens. There is no way that Americans would be allowed to go through such an ordeal of course, but I wonder what system is in place in other countries. Even the garden along the wall seems to have greater importance than the poor Jamaicans, as it is well kept and away from the road where damage can occur. The Jamaicans, however, are left to deal with the sun and possible damage from any reckless driver, who may have a few unpaid tickets but whom the police have been unable to apprehend.

But maybe if I were the Americans I would treat us Jamaicans with the same apparent level of disdain. The way the entrance is situated it seems as if it were deliberately designed that way so that persons in line would have to deal with the rising sun and possibly be discouraged from applying for US visas. But of course even this inconvenience is minor compared to the daily ordeal we have to go through based on the society that our politicians have so carefully crafted to ensure that Jamaicans face the same tribulation that all Christians know that Christ went through. So we could assume that the difficulties created by our governments may indeed be a willful intention to bring us closer to our God, as this suffering is indeed Christ-like.

So the Americans may think that if their government can treat them like that then why do we have to build a covering on the side of the road to protect them from the ravages of the sun? Why would we have to build a place where they can sit comfortably in while waiting to be processed? Why should we treat these persons like human beings when they come to our country where they run drugs, commit murders, and steal our jobs? Let us do as their governments do and process them like cattle, while at the same time collecting their visa application fees, which can contribute to reducing the large trade deficit we have created. As a Jamaican, I have to admit that the Americans may have some justification for saying this.

The patronizing way in which other countries view Jamaicans is of course the fault of our leaders. They are the ones that by their neglect perpetuate the indiscipline in society, which leads to the high crime rate, low literacy rate, poor economic performance, and low per capita income. This in turn forces Jamaicans to seek opportunities overseas but because of the low levels of literacy and indiscipline, they find that the best way to survive is by running drugs, and in the process killing a few people. That is why within the Caribbean, and in countries like little Cayman, we are seen as nuisances, because all we do apart from exporting crime is constantly go begging for assistance.

Encouraging corruption
The system put in place by the US embassy for visa applications is far less than adequate. First of all you apply for an appointment and a time is given to you. But the policeman on the outside shouts out to the Jamaican “cattle” that the time given to you does not mean anything, as even if you have a 7:30 AM appointment you can still go up to 11 AM. The most important thing is that you get inside before they close off for the day. So we have the right ingredients for creating a corrupt system, which may be a perk for the police appointed to the US embassy.

These ingredients are:
1. The police monitor the traffic and can make a determination of who goes to the front of the line. In fact while there I observed a lady pull up in a SUV and speak to a policeman there, in a very jovial manner of course. A healthy looking lady alighted from the car and was ushered to the front of the long line. Someone in the line mentioned that the driver was from a particular Ministry and carried persons there all the time. I asked a policewoman about this and she said that as long as I did not see any money passing then it was okay. Note: I did not bring up the subject of money. She went on to state that if she sees her family or friends she will carry them to the head of the line. Further, the police have the discretion of determining if someone has a valid complaint, such as time constraint, in order to elevate them to the front.

2. People are significantly inconvenienced and it may be cheaper for them to pay some money to go to the head of the line rather than lose 2 to 3 hours of productivity.

3. Appointment times are irrelevant thus creating a chaotic system.

This mix creates an environment where corruption can occur. I am not saying there is corruption but as Jamaicans say if you “rub butter on puss mouth” then what do you expect. Speaking to a policewoman there that someone should report this, her comment was that TVJ has come and other persons have written to the US embassy and their superiors about the problem and nothing has come out of it so she is indifferent about whether anyone wants to complain about it or not as nothing will change. This is the police so is it any wonder that we have a crime problem.

The disregard that politicians have had for Jamaicans is of course a fundamental reason why we are in the current economic situation. Until we realize that the individual is the most important ingredient for growth then we will always be a developing country, and treated as such by others. I am sure that politicians are aware of this type of situation Jamaicans face but is anyone making representation on behalf of Jamaicans. However, in true Third World style we will not vote based on these issues, but rather charisma, curry goat, and a box of beer.


Marc Purcell said...

DC I live in Toronto and often see the long lines at the consulate on my way to work on University Avenue. This seems to be problem of logistics.

I remember in Trinidad that this was often the problem with people in line as far early as 6:00am. However, that situation has been resolved with an appointment system done through the Bank of Nova Scotia.

Good read.

David Mullings said...

Excellent post, keep them coming. I too agree that our politicians have taught the World how to look down on our fellow Jamaicans.

They see Jamaica not as a country with their fellow brothers and sisters struggling to survive on the World stage, but instead a ripe farm to be ravaged at their will so that they can reap the benefits of what others have sewn.

Too few benefit from so many things in Jamaica, but the general public is yet to really rise up - Where are the marches of hundreds of thousands of people? We are content to call radio programs and write letters to the editor.

Those have never gotten us anywhere so do something different people. Learn from the US Civil Rights marches or the Tiannamen Sqaure protests. We need to make ourselves heard in a resounding voice.

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