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.

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. :)