Monday, September 7, 2009

PM - 'A' for audacity

Observer Column | JEAN LOWRIE-CHIN | Monday, September 07, 2009

Two years after their victory at the polls, the honeymoon of the Bruce Golding-led JLP administration is but a faint memory. But we shouldn't be surprised - even the hugely popular Barack Obama is down in the polls after a mere eight months in power. Such is the reward of ascending to power in a world wracked by financial crises.Both leaders have performed rescues of one sort or the other, and it is ironic that what Bruce Golding was able to accomplish virtually overnight has dragged Barack Obama and his colleagues from town hall to town hall, facing some of the most cynical, virulent tirades.

My friend George Graham who now lives in Florida spares a good word for Golding's effort: "As Lee Ann Womack put it: 'And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance. I hope you dance.'

And little Jamaica has joined the dance, while mighty America sits timidly on the sidelines pondering the risks involved. What on earth am I talking about? Why, health care, of course.

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding is forging ahead with plans to abolish hospital user fees, despite a torrent of criticism and the head-scratching conundrum of paying for the plan... The US is imagining the worst, too scared to take a chance, defeated before the game has even started." (

But there are many more rivers that the Golding administration must cross: budget cuts, salary increases and unrelenting crime. I think Mr Golding and Minister Shaw should have a huddle with Dr Henley Morgan and Dr Leahcim Semaj.

These visionaries have come up with innovative solutions for redeployment of labour and empowerment of the workforce. They can explain to unions that redundancies may actually open a better way of life for workers if training and counselling are a part of the separation plan. They will reveal opportunities that are knocking, if only we would listen.

Big government for a small country can actually rob people of their dignity, as they trip over each other, 10 doing the job of one. Large agencies incur unnecessary costs and drain productivity with unwieldy human resource issues. I heard a statistic the other day that gave me pause: the average population of a political constituency in India is 1.3 million in contrast to the electorate quota of 25,000 per constituency for Jamaica. Since there are constitutional guidelines for this, as explained by ECJ Chairman Professor Errol Miller, let us accept this reality and lean more heavily on our members of parliament to discharge their duties as representatives of the people. The technology exists to make the necessary appeals, keep track of projects, and ensure accountability.

To keep our public service lean and efficient, let us merge agencies with the parent ministries wherever possible. These times demand from us a willingness to break from the status quo and to use the brilliant new tools that promote efficiency and probity.

If we look beyond our tiny fiefdoms, we will see a nation brimming with opportunities. We will see that we are actually making our future less secure by this stubborn adherence to our tiny piece of dried-up turf when there are indeed greener pastures for us. We should look to those leaders who continue to strive for better, compete vigorously and see opportunities in every crisis. Henley "The Watchman" Morgan says if we want to discover the gold mine, we should have a "goal mind". That's how our athletes got their gold - now we need to work for ours.

I continue to bat for our nurses, whose requests are modest and whose patience has been virtually endless. However, I have to join the appeal of the Ministry of Education for our teachers to agree to the proposed schedule for the payment of retroactive salary increases. We know they are deserving, but at least they are far ahead of the nurses in terms of compensation.
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