I have to laugh out loud sometimes. Humans amaze me for their supposed ability to solve complex problems coupled with an incredible inability to resolve simple issues. That awful combination sometimes makes my blood boil and that of others, though not necessarily for the same reasons. I suspect there is a reality show in the making, which looks at international comparisons of what failures of public administration drive people crazy. I suspect that Jamaica would do well–or is it badly?–when pitted against other countries.
Yesterday’s papers had two letters, which struck me between the eyes as possible candidates, though the first would struggle in the qualifying rounds One letter was from an irate woman, who was offended and could not understand why she and her group of workers were asked for their ID documents before entering some famed national attraction. The bottom line was that, as is common in many countries, nationals or residents are charged less than foreigners and visitors for visiting such sites, and ID is usually needed to proof eligibility for the lower price. The default price is the higher one. She found it biased and ridiculous, and got all huffy and hissy about it. Biased? Yes. Ridiculous? No. Nationals in some sense own such attractions and have in some sense already paid for the provision and upkeep of them, though taxes; foreign visitors have not. It could also be about perceived ability to pay higher prices, but that is dicier logic. A cynic could say it is an appropriate ‘nuisance tax’, with foreigner placing more stress on the resources than national. That one, too, is not for my plate today.
Similar discriminatory practices are often seen when it come to national provision of health care or education: for example, Britain is contemplating imposing higher charges on non-EU nationals to access the National Health Service. I wonder if the lady would think that ridiculous. Price discrimination is a normal part of business, and people who have not experienced it either don’t realize what’s going on or decide that in certain circumstances it is acceptable: student discounts, loyalty discounts, employee discounts, discounts for certain times, discounts for volume–the list is long.
The other letter was from an irate man, who could not understand why he and others could not get their taxpayer registration numbers (TRN) because the cards were signed by the former commissioner of the Inland Revenue Department, who is in some dispute with her employer, the government. As if she had some personal responsibility in a matter that should just be simple public administration. This seems about as idiotic as saying that bank notes bearing the signature of a former governor who’s in dispute with his employer, the central bank, are no longer legal tender. But, it’s also in the vein of “The lady who does refunds is on holiday and won’t be back for two weeks.”
These two instances struck chords elsewhere, judging by the fact that the latter letter was today published in the other main daily paper, and the former generated a lot of online comments, many in support of the policy.
I wonder if as much bile rises when people try to drive around Kingston. (I won’t attack yet how one tries to navigate the bus system, which appears to offer no route guidance to riders.) I say to people who say they are leery about dealing with seemingly Kamikaze drivers in Jamaica, that it’s a wonder there aren’t more road accidents due to people trying to crane their necks looking for road signs, which are either not there, or obliterated. Where do you turn at an intersection when the street signs are both blank. Given that residents in some areas have already taken on the task of repairing roads (and here they may have the responsibilities because the road is actually private though open to the public), why don’t some pick up some tins of Sherwin-Williams and get painting? I wonder if the tolerance for this is deeply ingrained in a society, which for the longest time had few road signs on major routes (let alone on something easy to maneuver as city streets). Many a trip towards Montego Bay was made more adventurous by having to remember the right turn to head over the hills north. My little daughter understands fully why we note landmarks as we drive round town–purple wall, orange house, etc. After all, we live in a land where directions are often of the form “Go till you reach the mango tree, then turn up till you cross old Mr. Thomas house with the broken fence…” That’s understandable in standard English, but wait till it comes at you in labrish.
I’m sure plenty of other examples are out there, and Jamaica needs to get into serious shape to be able to fend off the competition. I’d love to track some other instances that are more bilious, whether they are Jamaican or foreign.