'So much things to say right now...' -- Bob Marley
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Can the poor take any more?
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Jamaica Observer | Monday, February 18, 2013
SOME of us Jamaicans live good lives, as witnessed by the social pages
in our press. Some live terrible lives, as witnessed by the nightly
newscasts. We saw the valiant Marvin Campbell, St Ann manager of the
Jamaica Public Service Company, explaining to Steer Town residents that
illegal power connections were not just a financial issue, but also that
they are dangerous.
Illegal connections to JPS power supply
Sadly, danger is a way of life in the inner city. A man said
he, his lady and six children were living in a one-room dwelling, so
'what we going to do?' One woman who was asked by the Jamaica Observer
about the Government's tax package seemed diffident - she was
unemployed. We heard a mother mention to a reporter that she had cooked
dinner for a 33-year-old man who allegedly had been co-habiting in a
neighbouring house with her 16-year-old daughter. Her child had been
stabbed to death by the said man, who has been held by the Police.
We should not be living like this!
On a weekend visit to a resort a few months ago, we met a Canadian
couple who were so impressed with a young waiter that they asked to
visit his family. They were shocked at their poor circumstances, but
impressed by his dignified parents and young brother. They hosted them
for a weekend at the hotel, and were moved by the simple things which
were regarded as luxuries by the rural family: a flush toilet, a private
shower, separate beds.
- from CaribJournal.com
And so we say to our well-dressed, well-housed, well-guarded leaders:
why, after 50 years of Independence in a tiny, well-endowed country does
it take a foreigner to introduce the family of a hard-working man, to
such a basic facility as a flush toilet? Is it because the folks who
have sworn to uplift their people are too busy playing solitaire in
meetings, as in that photo tweeted Thursday night by a fellow Jamaican?
This country could have been humming like a well-oiled machine decades
ago, were it not for the misplaced priorities of our leaders. Here we
are sitting on the gold mine that is Brand Jamaica, worrying about the
repayment of rising debt. We brag about Jamaica trending after our Super
Bowl buzz, the Bob Marley tribute at the Grammys and we have done so
little about this opportunity. We should be planning a 'Talk Jamaica'
World Tour with Oliver Samuels, Bello & Blacka, Joan Andrea
Hutchinson, Ity & Fancy Cat and some of our wonderful artistes and
bands. Could Jampro get this going?
I see packaged dried mangoes selling for good US dollars, yet mangoes
rot on the ground every season. Distant New Zealand has found a way to
make kiwis the rage, yet our delicious naseberries remain unknown, and
we are a hop away from Miami.
No, I will not believe a particular critic who told me of our Cabinet
members that "they are just plain lazy and arrogant - they are not
interested in doing anything for Jamaica". When I called the names of
my favourite ministers they scoffed saying, "They won't say a thing -
they're too busy protecting their corner".
Clearly, it is time for the private sector to ensure that this proposed
oversight committee announced by the finance minister will have teeth -
no one can be comfortable with this widening gap between rich and poor.
At a meeting of PSOJ members on Friday morning, financial guru Sushil
Jain observed that US President Barack Obama mentioned support for the
middle class about 10 times in his State of the Union Address. "You can
only grow the economy if you grow the middle class," he said.
For those who thumb their noses at the PSOJ, they should know that one
has to be tax- compliant to be a PSOJ member and that these folks are
responsible for the billions of dollars of revenue that flow into
government's coffers, to build and light our roads, and pipe our water.
GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby pointed out that 70 per cent of corporate
taxes was paid by one per cent of Jamaican corporations.
Instead of overburdening this group and taxing raw materials that are
necessary to keep factories open and Jamaicans employed, we need to hear
more about tax compliance. Two major manufacturers at the meeting noted
that if taxes were imposed on molasses and corn, there would be a
terrible fallout - a death knell for one business and a punishing
increase for consumers. Can the poor take any more?