Friday, June 30, 2017
Failure to tame crime monster costing Jamaica dearly
It is a well-accepted fact that crime — the number one impediment to doing business in Jamaica — is costing us between four to six per cent of GDP annually.
What this means is that, because of our inability to arrest the crime monster, Jamaica, and Jamaicans, are between $56 billion and $84 billion poorer per year because of the failure of our governments to deal with crime.
Put another way, Jamaicans are being taxed more each year to the tune of some $10 billion, when the fiscal accounts could collect additional taxes of between $16 billion and $24 billion annually, if only the Government could tame the crime monster.
As far as I am concerned, the best strategy for us to attain economic growth is to curb our rapidly increasing crime problem. This would create more economic activity, greater investment, more jobs, more tax revenue, a lower debt -to -GDP ratio, and a better living environment, among other advantages.
Think about it. Just by solving our crime problem, we would increase the standard of living for all Jamaicans. So one must ask the question: Why haven't we put the necessary resources and effort behind resolving this issue over the years? Clearly it must be a failure of governance, as the primary reason for Government is to provide security and the opportunities for prosperity for its citizens.
I repeat that this is a failure of governance, because consecutive governments have failed to do what is necessary to create an environment for crime to be reduced.
In an April 2013 article called “If we are to solve our crime problem…” I wrote the following:
“In order for us to get a handle on crime, the first thing we must do is understand that we cannot sustainably solve the problem if we do not have a disciplined and orderly society. In other words, it is difficult to create order within an environment of disorder. So if the parents in a household carry on with unethical behaviour in front of their children, then more than likely the children will act out what they see rather than what they are told.
“…it is always going to be difficult to solve crime if we do not deal with the indiscipline on the roads, the violations of the Noise Abatement Act and the zoning laws, and the littering of the roads. These are simple things to deal with, but unless we address them, it will be like expecting someone to emerge from a mud lake without any mud on them.
“…justice must be swift and low-cost. If we are serious about taming the crime monster, we cannot have a situation where the police make an arrest, take someone to court, and the case takes five years to complete. We also cannot have a situation where jurors go to court and don't even get lunch money or transportation costs reimbursed…
“The police need to treat all crimes as equal violations of the law and act speedily in all cases. So when someone reports domestic violence or praedial larceny, it is important for the police to treat all those cases as urgent. Don't wait to take action until the thief and the perpetrator of domestic violence graduate to more serious crimes …
“The law also needs to be applied equally to everyone. And in this case I am not talking just about the person with connections, but also when we give someone leeway because you think they are numbered among the less fortunate. If you give the small man a chance, soon you find a reason to give everyone a chance, and eventually corruption flourishes.
“It is also very important that before charges are brought against someone or any accusations are made public, proper investigations take place. There have been many cases of people being charged or accused of wrongdoing, but these charges either prove false or lack sufficient evidence. This negatively affects the credibility of law enforcement.
“… Enforcers of the law, such as the police, cannot be seen to disobey it. It is very important that the credibility and authority of those persons… are intact.
“So if we are to solve the crime problem, we cannot just focus on the outcome (such as murder). We must address the root causes of the problem — the main one being a lawless society.”
The irony is that I could have simply republished this article and changed the date, and it would have been just as, or even more relevant, four years later.
The fact is that all these situations seem to have grown worse. Accordingly, the crime threat has also heightened, and is now affecting our number one foreign exchange earner — tourism.
All of this is happening at a time when everyone is bullish on Jamaica, but that “bull” has been reduced to a “calf” on account of the ravages of crime.
This inability for many years to enforce law and order has reduced the attractiveness of Jamaica as a place to live and work. As stated above, it is a direct failure of governance.
Although I have a lot of respect for Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett, his latest suggestion to remove crime from the front page as a solution is ill- advised. It is like the “divine intervention” suggestion.
Crime will not be solved by refusing to highlight it, or by invoking the Lord's help at a prayer breakfast. It is going to be solved by the same methods that we used to deal with our economic problems: facing the reality of the problem and setting up a public-private partnership (EPOC or ESET) to deal with it. The sad reality is that if left to Government alone, the solution will not happen. It needs the involvement of all stakeholders.
I am certainly no crime expert, but what I know is that (1) crime is costing us the opportunity to do the best we can for Jamaica, and solving it is the most effective route to “prosperity”; and (2) crime cannot be sustainably addressed in a society that lacks law and order at the very basic levels of everyday rules.