Jamaica: Kings of Procrastination?

I have an impression about Jamaica, partly based on what I have been reading, hearing, and seeing on news programmes, partly based on what I have seen myself, and partly based on what I have heard others say. Jamaica is a procrastinator. Webster’s defines that as ‘to be slow or late about doing something that should be done : to delay doing something until a later time because you do not want to do it, because you are lazy, etc.’ Does that seem to fit the bill? I will try to be fair. Perhaps, good reasons exist that can explain, even justify why that is.

A social commentator gave his views about the troubling and persistent violent crime problem in Jamaica and wondered when the government would ‘do something’ about it. I asked why a government, that has a history of failing to do things, would be expected to do something now? It’s not the way that things happen in Jamaica.

I am trying to prepare myself to coach in a sports event this coming weekend. Up to the middle of this week, I had not heard details of the competition in which the children I coach will participate. This is typical. The venue has been chosen, but those who own the venue have only just been informed. Other logistical things that need to happen, if the venue is to be used, have not yet been put in train.

Things are often not done when they should be. Things are often rushed because people did not act when there was time to prepare. The results are often bad. It does not seem to matter if what is involved in major or minor, the country tends to look like the proverbial locker of stable doors after the horse has bolted. Perhaps, more than for his speed, that’s why Jamaica’s premier athlete is named “Bolt”.

This problem shows itself up in big and small issues. I’m just going to touch a few that came to mind randomly. They are systematic of a bigger problem and you can look and think of any issue that needs to be addressed in this country and the pattern will be largely the same.

I glanced quickly at the papers this morning and saw evidence of the door lockers gladly putting on the padlocks when the stallion is cavorting in the field. The public bus company is perhaps embarrassed by the media reporting of school children’s shenanigans in the Half Way Tree Transportation Centre. The Managing Director of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), Colin Campbell, announced that the bus company ‘has joined with the police, student organisations, principals, and other stakeholders in an attempt to curtail the unruly behaviour of students at the Half-Way-Tree Transportation Centre’. According to Mr. Campbell, marshals comprising former and current teachers have already been posted at the Centre to control students. He now starts to talk about how things are a ‘success’. 
I have to ask whether JUTC had not seen the problems themselves and felt the need to act earlier. It would be hard to imagine that the hordes of children in that bus terminus had not been keenly observed, and their misdeeds noted. Many adult passengers had been complaining about the bad behaviour. Doing something was clearly not a part of the solution. Why act now? Let’s not be too churlish, though, and run JUTC down for being a bit late to the party. Let’s see how successful they will be.

Although Jamaica is not a rich country, its people have certain values. Many would be shocked to read that ‘The Government is to inject J$1.2 billion in its programme to eliminate pit latrines from 158 Jamaican schools…those schools are to have flush systems by the 2015/2016 school year’. stmarys2Why be shocked? Last year, the number of schools with such facilities was 200, so we are seeing progress. Let’s not poo-poo what the government is doing. But, note that this progress is two years away. So, children, be ready for more of the same for a while yet. Economic times are hard and fiscal resources are short. It would be too easy to point to money spent on seemingly less important things as being a waste compared to what could have been done. But, let’s point.

Last week, the national men’s football team played a match against regional rivals, Trinidad. Jamaica lost. I went to the match. I noticed that ‘the team’ did not look very cohesive. I wondered how much time they had had preparing together. reggae_boyz_trainingSurprise! Not much. Let’s not get fixated on every minute and hour and say that they had about two days working together. That’s not a lot. The coach (relatively new, I admit) and administrators (long in the tooth) clearly had no idea that they were due to play this match and had to bus in the players at short notice so couldn’t do anything else but try to get a few hours of practice in? The team played the away leg of the match two evenings ago, and lost again. No real surprise. The coach talks about “team building” and that it’s not easy. May I suggest that he get a calendar and start planning better to get his team at least in the frame of mind that suggests things could be improved, if a little more time and attention are given to getting the players together earlier. I can’t see that situation of ill-preparedness lasting while Jamaica has a German coach. I have a feeling that the legendary love of orderliness that is Germanic will shine through soon, or he will be on a jet plane out. He’s indicated that he’s not happy with what he’s seen from some of his players, e.g. on their fitness and willingness to be ‘team players’. But, then again, maybe not. His temporary contract ended yesterday and its renewal, though talked about, has not yet happened. More of the same…

Look around and see the grass growing in the gutters, both literally and figuratively. Ask yourself if anyone else might have seen it. Ask yourself if anyone who may be responsible for dealing with it might have seen it. Then ask yourself why there is still grass growing in the gutters. Look up and see the rain clouds forming. Listen to the thunder and watch the lightning. Feel the first drops of rain, then listen to the pounding as larger drops hit some zinc nearby. Look at the rain gushing over the gutters. Watch as the rain starts to not run away from the house and pool up near its walls. The house owner looks puzzled and scratches his head. “What’s going on?” he cries. “My house is getting flooded! What should I do? Honey, go get me a bucket…” Remember the song “There’s a hole in the bucket”?

Jamaica’s fire service recently advertised for new recruits. They were inundated with applicants. Why am I not surprised that many would want to become putter outers of fires? We let these situations develop because we feel we can get away with that. It’s mutual: we expect little and demand too little.

We have to get away from the mentality that says it’s alright to leave things to be done until tomorrow. “Soon come!” does not work with most things. Putting off gets to be very expensive in terms of people’s lives. As much as we love proverbs you’d think that we’d understand “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.