Follow the money!

Lack of finances stifling football‘ screamed a headline in today’s Gleaner. President of a parish (St.Elizabeth) football association cited lack of corporate support as the main reason for the parish’s failure to get a team into the national premier league. This coming from an area that routinely has one of the best schools football talents, St. Elizabeth Technical High School.

Last week, I wrote about corporate sponsorship being the lifeblood.

When I see what goes on normally in Jamaica, it’s clear that ‘the money’ usually flows to the winners. So, those who are clearly amongst our best have a very good chance of getting financial help. But, the report above shows that this is not always the case, even for a sport for which we would normally expect support and interest to be sky-high. What is wrong?

Last weekend, news flooded in that the Jamaican 2-man bobsled team had qualified for the coming winter Olympics, ending a 12 year absence since 2002.dogecoin-is-sending-the-jamaican-bobsled-team-to-the-winter-olympics Lack of finance had hampered their efforts in the past, and was likely to hamper them after qualification. Then a strange thing happened. Within hours, I was seeing messages about raising funds–particularly, through crowd-funding. Fans of the sport got busy fast. Soon, the federation in the USA launched an appeal, accepting major credit cards, but also using Crowdtilt, Dogecoin (virtual currency) and Indiegogo. The team needed US$80,000 (to cover travel and equipment costs), and by Tuesday it had raised US$115,000. The government has since stepped in to cover travel.

The bobsledders are a special story in Jamaica, with the images of the Cool Runnings movie capturing in 1993 the thrill of the first entrants, in 1988. To revive that image was perhaps easier than getting the dry dirt of St. Elizabeth wet.

But, the supporters did something, fast and effective. They found a way to get to the money, rather than waiting for the money to get to them.

Jamaica is strapped for money. Think like this has to happen and with it a realisation that the old ways don’t work. Does it take the diaspora to be involved to get the party started? Maybe, but it’s about a mindset that is not constrained to tried and tested, and positioning that is outward-looking.

Jamaica needs a lot of that.

Eroding our own future

Some news commentary on the radio this morning has been with me all day. Criminals have been evicting people from their homes, then forcing the persons to rent back the premises from them. Jamaicans have some strange ways of extortion and making lives of so-called fellow citizens unbearable.

Those involved in crime are finding new areas of activity. There’s really no limit to where crime can take place, in terms of what can be used as the lever with which to force people into uncomfortable positions. The idea of being able to get away from crime by living in certain areas or closing areas off from the general public is a fallacy. Living in gated communities or the other common practice of locked doors to business premises provide a degree of security only at those places–and it’s only a degree. A friend told me how neighbours in his gated complex had been held up and robbed. It seemed that what happened must have needed ‘inside help’.

Here is the crux of what seems to have happened to Jamaica. Crime has become a tourniquet. The recent newspaper article in the Gleaner about the existence of ‘death squads’ in the police force, who receive instructions from senior officers to kill criminals points to an unending circle. The extraordinary levels of killings of civilians by security forces now had a more sinister context. With a day of the press report, another police killing occurred, in downtown Kingston (Orange Villa) this time the victim might have suffered from ‘mistaken identity’.

Crime seems to be everywhere. Crime seems to involve almost any and everyone, including those who are appointed to fight crime and protect the rest of us. This is a maddening dilemma to face. Lawlessness is so ingrained in what passes for normal life that it becomes difficult to understand how the country can really function.

We hear reports of extensive gang activity. We hear and read about drugs trading. We are constantly informed about thefts, often with violence: nothing is safe if it can be moved. Livestock; electrical goods; money; cars; household contents. We are so aware of theft that reports of sand mining at Duncans (Trelawny) quickly brought concern that the beach was being stolen. Government sources indicate that the mining was all legitimate. But, our suspicions were raised quickly; it had happened before.

Crime has taken a deep hold of the society and much economic activity. It is inevitable, in many respects. People have had little hope for so long and have decided to ‘make hope’. The easiest way to make that hope real, is to take away the hopes and dreams of others. Nothing need be created besides fear. Then, extract. It’s a cynical way to live, but there we’ve gone.

I believe that poor economic performance over decades has pushed many Jamaicans to a brink over which they then tumbled. Others followed, thinking that the gains far exceeded the risks of loss. Things wont change much unless that economic malaise ends.

Another piece of news struck me today. The UK recorded much better than expected employment data. Britain’s Prime Minister (@Number10gov) took to Twitter quickly to record his reactions: “Biggest quarterly increase in employment on record. More jobs means more security, peace of mind & opportunity for the British people.”

Britain has high unemployment by western European standards–7 percent; with youth unemployment (16 to 24-year-olds) at 21 percent. Compared this to Jamaica’s 16 percent and 40 percent, respectively. That island economy’s leader understands what poses major dangers and what is needed to avoid that. To repeat: “More jobs means more security, peace of mind & opportunity“. It’s not that simple, but it’s that simple.