When I look at the challenges faced in the Caribbean, I have to say that the main problem we face is one of governance, which for the life of me I can’t understand why we can’t get it right. And this I say because I think the solution is so simple.
One of the reasons why I think that we have the challenges we do is because we focus on symptoms rather than real root issues, mainly because it does not serve our political ambitions to do otherwise. Political ambition not only of the leaders, and politicians, but in many cases the followers are greater political hacks than the leadership of the political movement.
This I find very worrying, as I see many young persons who are setting out on continuing the tradition of political tribalism, in the Jamaica in particular. They espouse ideas purely based on political stance rather than rational reasoning. It is apparent that although slavery ended in 1834, they still are caught in a trap of mental slavery that incapacitates their God given ability to think.
But when I look at the Caribbean I see all sorts of problems. Other countries accuse Barbados of not welcoming some CARICOM citizens, with their “abuse” of women at the airport. In Trinidad it seems commonplace for the squabbling, because of obvious political reasons, to continue, while crime escalates there like in Jamaica. In the Turks and Caicos and Cayman we have recently seen moves by the British to charge the leaders for corruption. Not to say that it is any less rampant elsewhere, its just that they have the British to watch over them. In Haiti the masses seem to be continuously oppressed by the politicians who continue to fight for “scrap”. And here in my beloved Jamaica, we see where the police have killed more people this year than number of days, political tribalism is rampant, it takes two years to report on the over 70 lives lost in Tivoli, we have a Traffic Ticket Amnesty that was a good move but the way it was organized reduces the states credibility, a justice system that does not give quick justice, and I could go on.
In addition our economies, in the main perform poorly. With the worst performing economy now being Jamaica, as even Haiti is seeing growth. We have had several debt restructures in the Caribbean – Dominica (2004); Grenada (2005); Belize (2006 and 2012); Jamaica (2010); Antigua and Barbuda (2010); and St Kitts and Nevis (2011). This is why the rest of the world looks on at us as beggars, and a really sad lot. We borrow people’s money and then we don’t pay it back.
The other problem is that we seem to focus on the wrong solution all the time. or in fact we focus on things that will not solve the problem. The main focus is not on the debt and fiscal accounts, when in my mind this is not the main problem. So we will again apply prescriptions, such as the 2010 IMF agreement in Jamaica, that well the results show what happened. And if that doesn’t work, well just tax the people more, until the whole country is in poverty.
In 2009 when I wrote my book “Charting Jamaica’s Economic and Social Development”, I started by looking at the macroeconomic numbers since 1962, hoping to find the problem with Jamaica by analyzing the numbers. My conclusion led me to the reality that the problem with Jamaica, and by extension the Caribbean, was not to be found in the numbers but rather the constitutional political system. The UK did us a grave injustice when they left us with the Westminster system of governance.
Sure it can work in the UK, but this is because they have a much larger population of tradition and morality that we do not have. So, as I said in the book, whereby the UK has some 600 Members of Parliament (MPs), where only 120 form government, all of our majority side is usually a part of government in one way or the other.
So the UK has 480 opposition and true back benchers to oppose government. We really have an impotent opposition in Parliament as the government side will always win. So in effect, the Westminster system in small island states creates virtual dictators for 5 years, or until an election is held. What’s more people in Jamaica do not give feedback on legislation going through Parliament, so they have their way all the time.
The Caribbean Countries that have done well have been fortunate to have political leaders that have chose the right path, in spite of the political system. Sandiford in Barbados and Chambers in Trinidad. They were, however, one term Prime Ministers. Simply because the people voted them out for choosing the right path.
Which takes me back to the real problem, the citizens. We as a Caribbean people are the main reasons why our countries are the way they are. We do not demand performance but rather political decisions. We do not demand a better standard of living for all but rather a bigger contract for ourselves. We do not demand justice but turn a blind eye when the abuse does not affect us. We do not demand a more structured society but give excuses for indiscipline, saying it is a part of our culture. We do not look towards the future but rather short term benefits.
We do not use our resources for productive purposes but rather for entertainment. And I single this one out because I always hear people say, but what can I do? And we always say someone else should do it. Instead we use a very powerful tool, social media, to post our political leanings or follow the “immoral” lives of entertainers. We do not realize the power we have in our hands.
So my conclusion is that, whatever happens to us we have nothing to complain about as we are the ones who tolerate and promote it. We do not use the tool of social media, as done by other countries we strive to be like, or get a plane ticket to, for the betterment of the country and our lives. We use the media in a similar fashion.
So why can’t we get it right in the Caribbean? Look in the mirror.