Friday, November 10, 2017
Create an environment to encourage growth and development
Last Sunday, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck made a presentation to newly commissioned Justices of the Peace, and it was one of the most passionate and practical speeches I have ever listened to.
He referred in particular to the rampant indiscipline, especially on the roads, and promised to ensure that the full force of the law is brought down on delinquent motorists. He also promised to consult with lawyers to see if there is any way that drivers with 10 or more outstanding tickets can have their licences suspended.
In addition, he indicated that at the end of the traffic ticket amnesty, anyone with unpaid tickets will have arrest warrants issued for them and they will be locked up.
I for one am in total agreement with the sentiments expressed by Minister Chuck, and I would even go further and say that anyone with two or more outstanding tickets should have their licences suspended.
In fact, it might not be a bad idea to systematically revoke all road licences and have holders reapply for them, at which time they would have to thoroughly convince the authorities why they should have them.
This might seem like a radical measure, but it is only by creating a disciplined and orderly society that we will be able to have a shot at real development.
I am sure that most people would have heard the saying, “Show me your company and I will tell you who you are.” Most of us understand that if you plant a seed in infertile soil, then the seed will either not grow or the plant that comes out will be too puny to survive.
The fact is that we will never be able to see any meaningful, sustainable growth and development until we create a fertile environment for people to become more productive. Productivity cannot thrive in an infertile environment. So just as seeds will not grow in infertile soil, people cannot achieve their potential if there is too much negativism and disorder around them.
Crime will not subside in an atmosphere of disorder and indiscipline. Businesses will not do well if citizens (consumers) do not reach their full potential.
This need for a fertile environment does not only apply to people, but also to capital. For years I have listened to people lament the poor productivity of capital and say that “the private sector” must contribute more to the economy, not understanding that the private sector comprises anyone who is not in the public sector, including those spouting criticism.
But local businesses will remain unable to realise maximum value and productivity if we continue to hold them back with inhibiting labour laws, or we continue to restrict the movement of capital.
In Jamaica's case, capital has to work much harder than in other countries. As an example, where our cash reserve ratios are higher than in other countries, then the capital left to work must have a higher rate of return. For that reason we may see fees and other charges not seen in other markets.
Another example of how environment affects outcome is the relationship between the increasing cases of abuse we have seen against children and the low educational performance over the years. This is why I remain disappointed that months after the case of the neglected seven-year-old was brought to the fore, no one from any of the responsible child protection agencies has been held responsible, which just shows the disregard and uncaring attitude we have for our children.
We should not be surprised about the environment that we have created. Our governance has long neglected our justice system, traffic ticketing system, child protection, and the list goes on.
Instead, our governance focus has been on fiscal policy that has the prime intention of grabbing more and more from the citizens while giving less and less. So today we have very bad roads, high crime, bureaucracy, and uncompetitive tax rates.
In plain terms, we have “deliberately” set about creating the environment we live in today, and sometimes I have to wonder about our intent and ability to change that environment.
The production of numerous studies and commentaries of “intent” lead to no positive outcomes. The “toxic” business environment we have created over successive decades simply goes from bad to worse.
This doesn't mean that we have not made some progress — as minimal as it may be. But what we have failed to understand is that we don't live alone in the world, and that improvement is not just assessed by absolute measures, but by relative measures. So while we are standing still, other countries are doing what is necessary to move ahead faster than we are. So we take 10 years to pass Road Traffic Act amendments, or 10 years to pass the new Procurement bill.
We are weighed down under many studies and reports, which tell us in a spectacular way what needs to be done. We listen to countless speeches made by politicians over the years proclaiming their good intentions. And the truth is that if we did even 20 per cent of what is contained in those many reports, we would be way ahead of where we are now, both economically and socially.
As I said at the start, Delroy Chuck is right: the only way to address the matter of indiscipline is to take a zero tolerance approach and bring the full force of the law down on perpetrators.
I also believe that the minister has every intention of doing all within his power to fulfil his promises. However, unless we take action and implement a functioning ticketing system, utilise technology to assist in the crime fight, and fix our ailing justice system, then all those pledges will evaporate. Because if the supporting infrastructure and environment is not in place to support his intentions, then his fate will be the same as that of our economic and social development.