Archive for May, 2013

Working in government has afforded me the opportunity to see and learn several things thus far. Today is not the day to list those life lessons, I raise this point as while sitting in my fourth or fifth inter-ministerial/inter-agency meeting I had the greatest epiphany ever which is not even an epiphany as probably even the babe on the breast is aware of the reality I am about to describe.

This inter-ministerial workshop saw the special guests being consultants from Singapore, Jamaica’s twin of the 1960’s and 70’s that has outrun us over the last 50 years as Usain Bolt does most other runners. This was a one and a half day workshop with over six separate issue specific presentations highlighting essentially how Singapore does what it does and did what it did and perhaps how Jamaica could at long last learn some of these lessons.

The most surprising aspect of the whole thing, was that besides the great level of detail put into all the various presentations, it was essentially a few obvious, but fundamental differences that lay the foundation for this wide chasm in development between these two nations:

• Strong (uninterrupted)political leadership
• A strong state driving the development process
• A culture of ambition, discipline and productivity
• Total Governmental alignment (what some now call Joined up Government)
• A clear, unequivocal vision for the future that has total societal buy in

Articles could be written ad nauseum about all of the above but it was the last two that led me to the not so epiphany epiphany. Sitting in a room full of people from a wide array of Jamaican governmental institutions and listening to them talk about anything has definitely taught me three things:

1. Jamaica is full of persons with exceptional minds and ideas
2. Joined up government is a myth and it is a myth because:
3. There is no REAL clear vision of the end point we are trying to reach i.e. development.

So what about Vision 2030? You ask. That’s the million dollar question. Now I don’t want the ensuing argument to be construed as me being anti-Vision 2030. I think it is probably the most important document we have come up with recently. Notwithstanding this, for me it is just half the battle. To use an analogy Vision 2030 is like having a sports team and giving them a pep-talk but not finalising the game plan and strategy.

It is a wonderful document filled with ideals and aspirations but what does “the place of choice to live work and raise families” actually look like and how do we get there? Even to the most drilled down level of national objectives and outcomes vision 2030 does not really set out a blueprint of where we want to be and how we are going to get there. Hence to reiterate WE AS A NATION NEED TO AGREE HOLISTICALLY ON THE END POINT WE ARE ASPIRING TO REACH AND HOW WE PLAN TO GET THERE. Not on party lines or all the other dividers there is a need for the cliché consensus otherwise we are heading nowhere.

The next point is on Joined up government, the meeting also reinforced for me that we have a barrage of state bodies and agencies that all are supposed to be working in the national interest, but WHAT NATIONAL INTEREST? In the absence of this clear vision as described above we end up with “a bag of” ministries departments and agencies that often work in overlapping fields but have vastly different perspectives on the world, what the end point for Jamaica is and how we get there. Joined up government right now could almost be described as a myth. This is such an important point for the Singaporeans we so desperately wish to imitate that they rotate the heads of agencies regularly to ensure alignment – as we would say “ONE MOTION.”

Can we get there? Absolutely!!! But if we go back to the list of differences between Singapore and Jamaica stated above this is where the strong leadership comes into play, the kind of leadership that makes tough decisions even those that could hurt them electorally, the strong development oriented state with great ambition, the state that prefers to implement versus announce is needed.

I still have high hopes for Jamaica but I have resigned myself to the fact that a new generation that wishes to be the change we describe and seek must emerge and take the reins. Are we ready? Or are we going to be apathetic complainers into eternity?

Blessings!!!

I have been suffering through a very long blog writing slump as if the many different issues and challenges facing the world and Jamaica have almost lead to a sort of paralysis. I don’t know what it says about me that it is this most asinine article that has irked me sufficiently to write again.
The article I speak to is entitled “Kick CARICOM to the Kerb” written by a supposedly eminent legal mind however the content of this article severely brings such a designation into question in my humble/upset opinion. Mr. Lawyer’s arguments are not new but I strongly believe in the mantra “Who kno betta fi do betta.”

Argument 1 – The Caribbean region has no common identity. The evidence provided for this is that black slaves were in other places so why don’t we have links with them. Second piece of evidence from his eminence is that we eat different food. Do I have to provide counter arguments or are the assertions seem ridiculous enough in and of themselves. Never mind geographic proximity and the cultural, language and cuisine that we do share these count for nothing because we Jamaicans don’t like Mauby or bakes.

Argument 2 – West Indies Cricket is the only unifying entity, when the team was good it wasn’t a WI identity but buck ups of a generation of talent. Now this is the second most annoying aspect of this article and it surprised me it could get worse but later for that. REALLY MR LAWYER? What exams do students take in high school, they don’t come from a properly functioning regional body? Is not the UWI the premier academic institution in the region evidence of regionalism being reasonably successful? Not to mention areas such as telecommunication, postal services and disaster preparedness and emergency management and other unsexy, non-sensational areas that people ignore in favour of petty mess.

Argument 3 – Dem nuh like we so I’m not Caribbean I’m Jamaican. This is the argument that most Jamaicans will agree with but even that I have an issue with on a couple levels. On one level labeling an entire group based on a couple anecdotal experiences would mean all Jamaicans are con men that smoke weed. Secondly Jamaicans are just as guilty of this insular mindset. So the writer points to the T&T PM’s “ATM comment” clearly not remembering when the man on our 1 dollar coin likened the rest of the region as babies crawling whilst the almighty Jamaica was running. Not to mention the pride with which we love to refer to “small islands.” Same tune different day. All this is, is the remnants of baccra’s effective divide and rule campaign.

Argument 3 – we get the short end of the stick in trade so away with CARICOM. Another argument people will agree with readily and there is great truth in it, but not all of it is some evil system that is working against Jamaica alone. As day follows night if country A produces more goods than Countries B-Z then obviously country A is going to have a trade imbalance in a free trade arrangement. Does that make the arrangement in and of itself bad or does it mean untapped potential that countries B-Z need to work towards? I do yield however that in terms of trade in goods Jamaica tends to be more open than other countries, and that is a problem but how the argument is made and to then say do away with CARICOM as a whole is not well made by the writer in my opinion.

Where the wheels really fall off for the eminent lawyer is the assertion that instead of the CCJ, (cause we a nuh Caribbean people) to replace the privy council, we should for all intents and purposes beg our big snowy friend Canada a kotch and use their court as our final appellate court. LOL.

I really can’t deal with this anymore. Suffice it to say Mr. Lawyer has succumbed to the same view of CARICOM that most people across the region have and that is to fall into the trap of the sensational. ALL regional groupings have basically the same issues people have issues with people coming to take their jobs and people have issues with disputes relating to goods not getting into regional markets. Check the EU if you don’t believe me. What is noteworthy it is issues of economic integration that plague most regional groupings, CARICOM being no different. But that is just One Third of the story as CARICOM stands on 3 pillars – 1) Economic integration; 2)Functional Cooperation and 3) Foreign Policy coordination. If Mr Laywer and my fellow Caribbean people are fair CARICOM has been reasonably successful in the latter two pillars. The common institutions referred to above represent the strong functional cooperation I speak of and the ability of the region to take common positions and negotiate as a bloc versus multiple small states should not be scoffed at in a world of super powers and super blocs. Even in economic integration where most the issues lie it has not been all doom and gloom either.

CARICOM is by no means perfect that is not what I am getting at, at all here. A lot of work needs to be done but my submission is CARICOM doesn’t work to its full potential because our leaders don’t take it seriously and they don’t have to because we as the regional citizenry don’t hold them to account for their tomfoolery. I guess because we ourselves don’t take it seriously. So what you get when you take the approach of Mr Lawyer and the non-Caribbean Jamaicans (and other nationalities) is a circle if futility.

This was a lot and I still haven’t gotten all my thoughts off my chest but alas I won’t bore you any longer just to say if you physically read today’s newspaper and see the article, Note the unrelated picture above the article saying “What The F.” Can you say IRONY!!!

Blessings.

PS – see the article and decide for yourself if i’m too harsh: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/cleisure/cleisure5.html