Friday, June 22, 2007

Tis the season to be silly

So I was watching the nightly news three nights ago when a thought came to me that politicians have got the media to support the silliness of the election season. This is obvious because of the nightly reports of political rallies aired in the name of giving equal air time to all. I mean I understand the concept but should we continue to air every bit of nonsense that comes from the mouth of our politicians. When I watch the news and hear the blatant promises of gifts being belted out by our politicians, and the resounding response by the crowd, I am saddened that after 45 years of independence this is the best that we can do.

After 45 years our politicians are still promising us the same deliverance from poverty they did in 1962. So nothing has changed. They still make the same promises and we still believe them. Who is more stupid, the fool or the one who continues to follow the fool? After all this time the media continues to present this display to the Jamaican people, who unashamedly show delight at every word shouted by our politicians. The media is indeed behaving like a drug addict that needs to have its daily fix of political crack. My opinion is that we need to cease the glorification of this “Paris Hilton” type of political discourse and start contributing to the building of our nation by focusing on the real issues that will move us forward.

US political campaign
When I look at the US political campaign and compare it to ours I understand why we are a developing country and they are developed. When I listen to the media coverage in the US and compare it to ours I understand why we celebrate underachievement and mediocrity. I do accept that even the US politicians have flashes of “soap opera” type performances but in the main the focus is on policies that will contribute to development. Commentary in the US surrounds foreign policy (Iraq e.g.), tax policies, health care, and immigration issues. In Jamaica of course our focus is on who said what, when, and where; who went on peace marches and who did not; who will supply piped water, fix roads, or build community centres; which poll was not published; who gave out bun and cheese; and the list goes on and on of promises to give a fish rather than teaching people to fish.

Of course the people gobble up the promises because our politicians have managed to successfully keep them illiterate in the most part, where over 80 percent of children leaving school do so without one subject. And the media, which should include educated persons, supports the propaganda by focusing on petty issues rather than the important determinants of our success. It is as if we have all forgotten that (1) while the region is growing at an average of 5 percent, we are growing at under 2.5 percent, and an average of only 1 percent per year; (2) we have official debt of almost $1 trillion; (3) we have a sugar industry and airline that is hemorrhaging $ billions per year; (4) we have a police force that is not only under equipped to fight crime but is also unable to solve murder cases effectively; (5) we have a literacy rate of 80 percent while competing countries are at close to 100 percent; (6) government bureaucracy is stifling the private sector; (7) we face challenges in a global environment, such as competition from China and global warming; and (8) how we do we plan to control our expanding energy bill and ensure consistent power supply. The list of real issues is too long for this column but we do not hear of any solution in the coverage of the rallies.

I have to conclude that our politicians do not consider us sufficiently intelligent to understand the real issues and confine us to promises of roads, water, security, and a few nights of curry goat and beer, as if we are at the nine-night preceding the burial of our country. The irony is that it seems as if this is what we enjoy. I guess it is human nature, as even internationally many people would rather watch coverage of Anna Nicole’s promiscuity and Paris Hilton’s childish fits than understand what is happening with economic development. It’s just that we seem to have a lot more of those people than everyone else. So each night the media continues to air the latest “Jerry Springer” episode of the campaign rallies.

Economic development
One of the issues I would have thought we would have focused on is how we can ensure that Jamaica continues to grow at comparable rates to the international community. Because while we continue to lose ourselves in the euphoria of promises the ship of global economic progress continues to sail past us. The region is again projected to grow at around four to five percent for this year, and we are on target to grow at two percent or less by my projections.

The PIOJ, for example, is involved in the very important task of putting together a national development plan. While this has been publicized there is no discourse from our politicians on what this should include. Is it that they don’t understand it or they do not think that those attending political rallies, or watching the nightly news, will understand it? Or maybe it’s a combination of both, because based on some of the commentary I hear coming from the mouths of those on the campaign trail I have to wonder if they really appreciate what is needed for moving their communities forward.

We need more people like Andrew Holness and Peter Bunting in representational politics, that is young and more importantly understand the issues that need to be addressed. But then again representational politics can be such a slimy issue that one’s stomach can easily turn at its produce. So if I did wear a hat I would certainly lift it to these gentlemen, who not only have the courage to represent the people, but have demonstrated to me that they understand what needs to be done to move Jamaica forward. And there are maybe a few more such persons, but the great majority fails to qualify.

Our politicians, however, are nothing more than salespersons who are trying to get state power and will tell us anything that will secure our votes. It is therefore the responsibility of all of us to demand real discussion of the issues. Let them tell us how they plan to bring sustained economic development to Jamaica. What are the policies they will embrace to move this country forward? We could possibly have election in July, and we have not yet seen any manifesto. But based on the media’s preferred coverage of the “tracings” by candidates of their opponents I wonder if this would even get adequate coverage.

In many constituencies it does not matter who the candidate is as we do not vote for candidates but for a political party, and which ever leader makes us feel best. Even if a cockroach is put to run it would not make a difference.

So I am appealing to Jamaicans, and in particular the media, not to focus on the curry goat politics that has led us to our present economic situation after 45 years of independence, but rather focus on understanding what politicians have to offer in terms of developing Jamaica and hold them to it. This is a big concern not only for me but the many responses I get to my columns and blog, from Jamaica and around the world, but it seems as if we are in the minority.


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