Friday, April 27, 2012

We're in a governance emergency

Excerpt from Observer column | 23 April 2012
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Resilient Jamaicans are not ready to give up on their country anytime soon.
On Thursday representatives of eight new companies, dubbed ‘The Bold Ones of Manufacturing’ gathered on the grounds of Kings House, where GG Sir Patrick Allen and Lady Allen launched a mobile campaign which will see vivid graphics of these companies displayed on National Baking trucks. Among them is Mango Valley Pride, owned by Cinderella Anderson from St Mary, which makes flour from banana, plantain, breadfruit and cassava and ‘raisins’ from otaheite apples. Then there is ‘Pretti Slippery’ in St James owned by Dr Angela Chin Hing who created skin products made from local ingredients for her own children, which have found favour with some of the leading hotel spas in our resort areas.

The GG and Lady Allen beamed as they spoke with these eight brave Jamaicans who have created employment and are tax compliant. They saw them as examples of the active patriotism they have been promoting in their ‘I Believe Initiative’, which reminds us that ‘there is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica’.
Indeed, there is so much that is right with Jamaica. On Thursday evening, thousands gathered at Emancipation Park for the free premiere of the Bob Marley documentary, a quiet 11th anniversary contribution from Digicel. Dr Sonjah Stanley-Niaah’s ‘live-tweets’ kept us abreast of the rich content: “Bob was the consummate workaholic, writing early in the morning, sleeping only 4hrs per day... It’s lightning and thunder as Marley jumps in the classic performance bringing the leaders of rivaling parties together.” Overseas media were abuzz with reports of this long awaited premiere.
As we count down to the Olympics, the eyes of the world are on Jamaica. We watched the NBC special on Usain Bolt, thanks to a Facebook link from Winsome Foderingham. We saw a focused young man whose father was a strict disciplinarian. “Usain always thanks me for the way I grew him,” said his Dad.

We saw the bright Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser survive and thrive despite the rough environment of her Waterhouse community. Shelly-Ann commented that most girls were preyed upon as soon as they started to mature physically. It was her long hours in training and her protective mother that kept her safe and in school.

NBC host, Lester Holt, who has Jamaican roots, remarked on the paces that our children are put through from a very early age. By the time they get to the Girls’ and Boys’ Championships, they are performing like Olympians. ‘Champs’ is now regarded as the largest and most prestigious high school athletics event in the entire world.

Holt also spoke with coach Glen Mills, a calm individual, who has groomed Usain Bolt and team-mate/archrival Yohan Blake to be the top two sprinters in the world. Mills and fellow coaches are intelligent, patriotic Jamaicans who themselves sacrifice much to bring their charges to this level. I remember former JAAA President and Alcan manager Pat Anderson getting donations of foodstuff to ensure that young athletes in his charge were properly nourished. I am particularly proud of Calabar coach Michael Clarke, who I taught as a fifth former. He was mature beyond his years; respectful and disciplined – no doubt he has passed on these qualities to his alma-mater’s Champs winners.

On balance, Jamaica still comes out as a positive place to be, thanks to folks like our coaches and dedicated visionaries who have never sought the easy way out. It is now incumbent on our leaders to ensure that we address what I have dubbed ‘a conspiracy of mediocrity’ in both the public and private sectors. This phenomenon results in Jamaica’s low productivity score, compared to Caribbean states with far less resources than us. I have too many stories to tell of excellent Jamaicans who simply throw in the towel and migrate, after they are frustrated by the slouches who have no interest in raising their standards at the workplace. We have a clear warning from the IMF – let us stop cosseting the pretenders and discouraging the producers.

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