Feel my pain? Really?

Some politicians often try their best to show they are not far removed from the mass of their electorate. When times are rough, especially, remarks such as “I feel your pain,” start to make more appearances. Given the lifestyles many people see politicians living, however, I’d be surprised if any but the most naive would really believe that all the roughness that ordinary people encounter in daily life also leave visible marks on politicians.

20130924-095908.jpgJamaica’s prime minister chose her party’s conference this last weekend to make one of those remarks. I can’t say for how many people it rang hollow, and I’m not wishing to suggest that she was anything but sincere. However, as I was traveling to country this morning, my eyes focused on what some were feeling.

The roads in Kingston, at around 6:45 in the morning, are filled with children walking to school, or waiting at bus stops. Most look astonishingly neat, especially the girls. Cars are crossing the city with children perched in seats with their parents, many of the kids are getting some extra sleep. Some children are on the gas tanks of motorbikes, clutching backpacks. Long lines of traffic clogged the roads entering Kingston from the west, with people headed to work. Many of the market people would already have reached town. Once you get into the towns outside Kingston, you see groups of children and adults waiting for taxis, or children clustered around school gates. That’s the day starting.

I took a short stop around 7:45 to grab some porridge for my breakfast, and of course the place was busy. As we proceeded to Mandeville taxis sped past us, jammed packed; some buses, too, jam packed. I remember the scene in Kingston last night as I was headed home with my daughter. “Wow! Look at those people!” she was flabbergasted to see an express bus filled to the brim with passengers.

We can ask and know the answers about how people are dealing with bus and taxi fares 25 percent higher than when schools closed for the summer.

Taxis may be flying along but I hear that business is tough.

Many people don’t have a job, so are trying to earn money in other ways.

A young girl, living near Mandeville, whose father does some small farming, is trying with her mother to raise chickens for sale. I’ve eaten some and can’t wait to get more. But… Rats have been digging their way into the chicken coop and killed and taken away nearly 35 of the 50 young chickens they were raising. So, economic wasteland still on the horizon. What to do? Not give up. She has to find a way to deal with the rats. She can’t use another predator on rats, which may also prey on the chickens. Don’t want to use poison. Dilemmas.

That was just a few thumbnail sketches. But, I’m sure none of that has been what Sister P has been dealing with for quite some time. Explaining to the population what sacrifices they need to make to see economic progress won’t be easy. I’m not sure that empathy is really needed, rather than words that suggest that what people have to endure is not endless.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)