Friday, January 27, 2017
The impact of policy on development
Page 3 of the Wednesday, January 25th, Jamaica Observer, had two very disturbing reports.
The first referred to a 15-year-old who is unable to read and write, because his mother had no money to send him to school, and his father had basically abandoned him. In addition, the mother, who is not working, has several children and his older siblings are in a similar position.
The second story is about a Pentecostal pastor who was convicted of having sex with a minor.
These stories follow the revelation of the sexual misconduct allegations against three Moravian Church pastors, in all cases involving minors. In this case, it also features a mother who has 11 children, who is also not able to take proper care of them, and no mention of the father, or fathers.
Around the same time, a news report revealed that both the OCR and CDA, were playing “bureaucracy tag team”, while a seven-year-old girl was allegedly suffering abuse at the hands of a predator. After seven months, they had not located the child despite having the contact details for the person who had made the report - and within one night of the news item the child was found.
The authorities have launched an investigation into the case of the seven-year-old, and the Government has also promised to assist the mother of the girl involved in what is now known as the Moravian Church Scandal.
Both responses I think have fallen short of what they should be, as in the former case there was no urgency in the form of a timeline given to completing the investigations, or even any suspension from “front line duties”, as done with police, even though the abuse of a child is one of the worst crimes.
In the second case, I would have wanted to know what was the investigation into the neglect by the mother. But this is a day in Jamaica.
And after all of this, the question being asked is, has the church failed us? With much debate about the inadequacies of the church, as if it is the church that is the responsible gatekeeper for law and order in the country.
The fact is that all these cases have more to do with a lawlessness society, and lack of order, than any teachings of the church.
What we must not continue to do is divert the responsibility of governance from where it should reside, which is the Government and Parliament, as these are the institutions with the power and authority to effect law and order, and hence create values in a society.
The church like any other institution is nothing more than a microcosm of the society. This also applies to a school. So, that when up to a few years ago, 70 per cent of our children were leaving high school, without one subject, the ultimate blame is not the school, but rather the system that has caused the school to produce that output.
Until we understand this fundamental point, we will be forever chasing our tails, and eventually end up repeating the cycle of the past 40 years.
The fact is that the cases above have more to do with the policies pursued by Government over the past 40 years than the failing of any church or school, as the same leadership in the church and school was created by the policies (or lack thereof). So a teacher or pastor, who has underperformed, was not isolated from the environment before.
In fact, one could also argue that if the church and school were absent then the situation may be much worse than it is today. Just as a senior policeman said to me - even though people may say that the JCF is dysfunctional, what would happen if we did not have the “dysfunctional) JCF in place?
Therefore, in order to solve the problems of murders, child abuse, road indiscipline, and disorder generally we must, in my view, go back to the problem of Government policy.
So even though we create a police force, OCG, Public Defender, OCA, and other such institutions, if the Parliament each year refuses to provide adequate resources then how do these institutions function effectively?
And even if we go further and provide the resources to all these institutions and they do their job effectively and carry persons to the court, but because of inadequate resources and action, the justice system is unable to deliver judgements for at least two years -then once again the result is disorder.
And even if we assume that the resources are made available, and the justice system works efficiently, another challenge we have is that we do not proactively put legislation in place. Effectively taking years to debate and have legislation passed.
Also, when we look at the economy, even when we make all the sacrifices under the Economic Reform Programme, if we fail to put the legislation in place to deregulate capital or achieve public sector efficiency, then there will be no sustainable growth and development.
In the end everything that happens in a society comes down to policy developed by Government, and functionaries, and importantly also how Parliament governs and debates when they meet every week.
We only need to look as far as the United States and see what effect the policies espoused by a President, or the House of Representatives, have on markets and whether capital stays in the country or not. Or what effect laws passed - such as on abortion, or the mere appointment of a Supreme Court judge - have on the behavior and values in the society.
In the end it all comes down to policy, as this is what affects long term behavior and what a society turns out to be.
Unless we realise and address this issue then a focus on church or the JCF will only be a superficial solution.