Friday, June 19, 2009

It's the little things that matter

I am sure that everyone has heard the saying "it's the little things that matter". This is usually in reference to a relationship but is no different at a country level or in business. After all, it is the little things that determine behaviour shaping the outcome of larger issues.
Dennis Chung

For example, in a company the outcome of profits is the result of many decisions that take place during the year. These could be matters such as enforcing deadlines, defining a proper marketing plan, creating financial projections based on the correct assumptions, etc. All these actions result in profit or loss for the company, as the sum of these parts results in the whole. This is why companies have line managers who deal with day-to-day management issues, because if these little things are not controlled, then the CEO's vision will be meaningless as there will be a disconnect between vision and reality.

Prerequisite for development
Similarly, for a country's progress it is the little things that matter. The overarching goal of a country is economic and social development, which means that not only should the country achieve relatively high levels of economic growth but the average citizen must feel like social progress is constantly being made. For development to occur both must happen simultaneously.

But a part of the danger in achieving that development lies in the management of the little things in a country, which if we get it right will translate into the economic and social development we require. Economics and sociology are based on human behaviour, and so if we were to always positively affect human behaviour then this would yield economic and social progress.

The average citizen's behaviour is not affected by macroeconomic targets, or by interest rates. In fact, it is the other way around. So it is logical that the desired outcome of interest rates and macroeconomic targets must start by first influencing the behaviour of the average citizen so that it translates into the economic and social behaviour needed to enhance development.

That is the way markets have always worked and will continue to work. In the United States, for example, the relaxed financial regulatory environment resulted in behaviour on Wall Street in which financial institutions created the risky Collateralised Debt Obligations (CDOs) causing the financial crisis in 2008.

This is why I keep saying that Jamaica's economic challenge is a social problem. It is primarily the way we have organised our society that has caused the economic stagnation we have seen since 1990. If, on the other hand, we were to arrange our society differently the resulting behaviour would create economic progress.

The biggest challenge the country continues to face is crime and the deviant behaviour of not only our most notorious criminals, but by most people. After all, when someone breaks the law or is unproductive at work, the cry is always to give him/her a chance or "is just a hustling". When the prime minister was speaking about the night noise recently, he mentioned that when confronted by the police the citizens will cry out that it is their way of enjoying themselves and it keeps them from criminal activities, as if everyone should ignore their lawlessness simply because we are being spared escalated crime levels.

Or when someone is caught breaking the traffic laws they say how hard the policeman is for giving them a ticket or impounding their vehicle. The lawlessness on the roads is symptomatic of the wider crime problem.

Respect for the citizen
On the other side of the coin, how can we expect our citizens to respect the law if the law does not respect them or we create an environment where, to get ahead, you must be stronger than everyone else? It is very important that justice not only be done but also be seen to be done. Two such instances come to mind.

(1) The police cannot expect that the citizen will give them intelligence to solve crimes if they are seen as the enemy of the citizen. And while I understand that most members of the police force are good people, similarly not all Jamaicans are criminals, but we have a very bad reputation as a country overrun by crime. Once a policeman is accused of a crime the public must know what has been done, as the recent reports of arrest have shown. Similarly, if a citizen accuses a policeman of a crime he did not commit, then the citizen must be held accountable.

(2) In the recent case of Nicole Fullerton, it should not have taken ten years. In order for justice to be done one must have the right to a quick trial, as happens in the USA. The Enron and other such cases were completed in one to two years, and started even after the case mentioned here. This is so for many cases in Jamaica that do not receive the profile of the Fullerton case.

I will say again, if we cannot solve these small issues then there is little hope of dealing with murders.

There are many other issues we need to deal with, but one other is the matter of how we protect our children. Recently, we have seen attempts to deal more firmly with carnal abuse and other cases. But where are the child protective services, or any other agency that deals with children's rights? It seems as if they are content with just developing policy about how to deal with child abuse, when what is needed is on-the-ground action.

Each day there is clear evidence of child abuse on our streets which does not need any in-depth investigation to deal with, and in fact contributes greatly to the deviant behaviour when these very children grow into men and women.

I speak of the children who can be seen on the streets:

(1) Selling goods, and they will tell you it is their parents who sent them out. This is child labour for all to see;

(2) Wiping windscreens and creating a nuisance to motorists;

(3) Unsupervised on the streets at all hours of the night; and

(4) Mothers who take their babies to the stop lights to join the ranks of the increasing number of beggars

If the child agencies were serious about dealing with abuse and protecting the rights of children, then these are some low-hanging fruit they would deal with. We do not need any new policies or laws to address these challenges.

Finally, one significant positive for improving our tourism product, or the general quality of life, does not cost much money. It is dealing with harassment on the roads. Those who engage in this activity should be taken off the streets and sometimes it is in plain sight of police officers, who have become so accustomed to this cultural norm that they don't even know what it is. For example, New Kingston, which is our main business centre, is filled with beggars who even set up car washes at the side of the roads.

Now after allowing all of this to happen on a daily basis within the clear view of the authorities, can we really say that we are serious about development?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Howdy, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam remarks?

If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you can recommend?
I get so much lately it's driving me mad so any assistance is very much appreciated.

My web blog; Best diet plans