Sunday, April 9, 2017

Our people deserve better

Jamaica Observer column by Jean Lowrie-Chin
published  3 April 2017

The countries dubbed the happiest in the world are those which provide solid social services for their citizens.  This does not come at an easy cost but as one of my friends from Norway told me, “I pay my taxes with a smile!'  Svein says he is assured that his children will be able to grow up in a nurturing environment and that as he and his wife age, there will be health and other services to support them.  

Unfortunately, those of us in Jamaica who are called upon to pay dramatically increased property and other taxes, cannot look forward to such benefits from the State. Having made such an inspiring Budget presentation, this is a time for our Prime Minister to lead the charge for a new political will.  This would reassure the Jamaican people that their taxes are being used to run an efficient public service. It is Jamaica’s obese public service which homeowners are now being asked to finance to the detriment of the country’s financial well-being.  Most of these homeowners have mortgages to pay, and many are elderly pensioners who can barely find the funds for the upkeep of their homes.  
Last week this column quoted some encouraging sections from the Prime Minister’s Budget presentation in which he outlined plans for creating employment and making more young people employable. However, the Prime Minister and his colleagues in Cabinet cannot be deaf to the outcry of their people who have financial, security, health and environmental challenges. Honest, hardworking citizens have become prisoners in their own homes.  Even if wealthier folks can afford the many safety devices on the market, how will businesses continue to operate if they now resort to online shopping for fear of being robbed in public places.

From whence did these criminals spring? The decades-long alliances of both JLP and PNP politicians with unsavoury individuals developed into gangs they could no longer control. What a great day it would be if MPs and Parish Councillors took a visible, active role in being agents of peace and justice. They are a sizeable team for 2.7 million citizens – 63 Members of Parliament and 224 Parish Councillors.  What a great boost it would be for our Jamaica Constabulary Force if they knew that they could rely on every single politician in this country to help preserve the peace though fostering neighbourhood watch programmes.  The cynical “safe seat formula” continues to put fear in the hearts of residents of certain areas who still cannot safely cross a street dividing communities along party lines. 

If these leaders had to operate without personal security detail, they would probably be more sensitive to the terror that is being visited on our communities, deeply affecting our elderly. 
In the meanwhile, I have to thank the security companies who have offered our members of our Senior’s organization CCRP discounts on security systems.  They are: Guardsman, Hawkeye and King Alarm.  I am appealing to those who have elderly relatives to sit with them, examine their environment and work out a safety plan for them.  Ensure that emergency numbers are posted at strategic points and that they are entered in their mobile phones for quick response.  We have to also try to be the eyes and ears for our neighbours, as it seems that no community, rich or poor, is immune.

There are so many good citizens who have given and are still giving of their all for their country. Let them not be discouraged by so many obstacles, many of which can be removed by a new resolve for good governance in sphere of public life.

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