Friday, August 29, 2008

Levelling the playing field

Our Olympians have gone to Beijing and have done us extremely proud, and I would certainly like to add my own congratulations. These athletes both displayed an individual and team effort that proves to the world that Jamaica has the potential to be a world force. It also shows us the huge potential that all Jamaicans have and what we can all become.

Probably the proudest moment for me though, was not when Bolt crossed the finish line, or when the women came in 1, 2, and 2. It was every time these athletes stood on the podium and the Jamaican flag was raised to the strains of the national anthem. And even in that proud moment there were mixed emotions as I wondered if a small country of 2.7 million people can dominate the world in track and field, why can't we cope successfully with our economic and social situation at home? After all over the years it has been the individual, and team efforts of our athletes and musicians mainly, that have brought Jamaica its proudest moments. And it is these proud moments that have always allowed us temporary reprieve from the "sufferation" that politicians have created since independence.

Wagonist express
It is McKenley, Cameron, Quarrie, Ottey, Marley, Cliff, Shabba Ranks, Beenie Man, and more recently Veronica Campbell, Bolt, and other Olympians, who have made us feel good internationally. If we were to rely on our leaders, then we would feel like the pariah of the world. It is these people who have come from very humble backgrounds that have risen to the highest levels, on mainly individual efforts, that have brought fame to this little rock. And make no mistake about it, they have done it on their own, and with individual help. It has been without the support of government or much corporate support. In fact, the distinguishing company that has supported sports consistently in Jamaica is really an Irish company, Digicel. Not that there are no other companies, Digicel stands the tallest amongst all others.

Don't be fooled though, those that have never supported sports, or any individual athletes, will sooner than later now hop onto the "Wagonist Express" and will make the most noise. I remember as a teenager listening to Bob Marley and Shabba Ranks, when many still thought that this was not acceptable music. It wasn't until late in the life of Bob Marley and after Shabba received international fame that many started to listen. We always seem to be the last to recognize what is the best of Jamaica because of our "Foreign Mind" mentality. We should be Americans as we believe if the person comes from America, or the product is made there, then that is superior to a Jamaican person or product.

Sure we have celebrated the achievements of our athletes and musicians over the years. But that is only after they have made a mark internationally, and been recognized by the world. As a country we never seemed to have the ability to recognise greatness before it hits the international stage, and rely on the endorsement of foreigners as if we suffer from a deep-seated inferiority complex.

If we are to move this country forward though, we cannot only be calling for the levelling of the playing field re drug use in athletics, but must also seek to level it for all Jamaicans in Jamaica. The most important capital we have is our people. In the information age, which started in the 1970s, it is well understood that knowledge is the greatest capital for any country's development. In Jamaica, however, we believe that every other country's knowledge is more important than our own. So over the years we abuse the rights of Jamaicans, and expect them to be silent. We use foreign expertise instead of building our local expertise, even though we can safely say that over the decades of doing so our country has gone from bad to worse.

Jamaica first
It is as if we do not have much regard for our most important capital component, Jamaicans. It is not the foreign investments that will really move this country forward, but the investments made by Jamaicans. Local investments are more committed to Jamaica's development, and more importantly profits, move back into the country rather than go out. This was a point made by Michael Lee Chin, that he is committed to invest NCB's profits in Jamaica, and not ship them out. The logic is simple: if one does not reinvest profits in the country, then the only thing that will happen is that the investments will be equal to the cost. If the investment is equal to the cost then there is no new development, and growth is stymied.

I will give some recent examples of how we treat Jamaicans:
. A few weeks ago at the airport, I was going on an early morning flight. Now most people will know that the airport is very busy at that time. On approaching the security checkpoint going to Immigration, I noticed a very long line waiting to go through security. I noticed that only one of the three security checkpoints was open. I thought how inefficient is it that the management did not ensure that enough people were at work at that time? To my surprise I saw some of the people who were standing there in blue uniforms, open another checkpoint and say they were only going to open it temporarily. I could not believe that they had the audacity to do so and watched as Jamaicans lined up like cattle. Surely it would not happen at Montego Bay where the tourists arrive;
. The explanation by JPS as to why people were overcharged on their bills and that it will be sorted out in the following month. Billing someone more than they are liable for, and expecting them to pay because they do not have a choice, is wrong. Maybe we could apply their own ad and say "If forcing someone to pay more than they owe is stealing, how come it is done. How come?"; and
. Recently Dr Gomes was on radio saying that while in her office policemen entered and took away a young man, while concealing their badges, and without showing any warrant, although requested.

And then when Jamaicans are aggressive we ask the question, why are Jamaicans like that? The answer is simple; this is because for years we have trained Jamaicans to be like that. If people have to wait in long lines, cannot get justice with the police or court system, or have to drive on bad roads, which they pay taxes for, then don't we expect a certain level of frustration from them? If people drive on the roads and see that it is those who break the road code that get to where they are going easier, then don't we expect that many will follow? Remember the laws of physics, for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If we treat people with no respect then we can expect the same results. But if we treat people with respect, just as other countries treat their citizens, then we can expect good to come from them. If we want Jamaica and Jamaicans to develop, then we must give them opportunities and preference over imported people or goods. By all means if they fail then they must be held accountable, but accountability must be based on objective and not subjective factors.

If we are serious about the development of this country, then we must understand that it cannot be done without the development of the people. It is said that capitalism is the most successful economic system of all time but it is not just because of the competitive market but also because it goes hand in hand with democracy. If we look at the most successful capitalist systems they all have in common the development and respect of their citizens as priority number one.


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