Jamaica is in a better place? Where?

Jamaica’s PM was in her element yesterday, on the platform speaking to the party faithful at the People’s National Party’s 76th annual national conference at the National Arena in Kingston. I did not listen to the whole presentation: it was my daughter’s birthday and I was more focused on her and her friends making lots of noise and seeming happy. The arena sounded a fun place too, with vuvuzelas blaring every time something positive was uttered. Blahhhhhhh!

She was off and running, literally and metaphorically. The local government elections are due next year, and national elections by 2016. The torch has been lit. Raise your flags and voices!

PM Simpson-M
PM Simpson-Miller: running, running, running… (Courtesy The Gleaner)

I followed the speech on social media, including the few posts by the PNP’s Twitter account (@JamaicaPNP). It had little content, and no new policy measures. It had a few good sound bites. One that stuck with me is that Jamaica is at a better place today than it found in 2011, thanks to a number of initiatives, including the creation of several thousand jobs in various industries, investments and sound economic management by the current administration. Wherever Jamaica may be, oddly Jamaicans are certainly not in a better place. Why is that?

Well, betterness is not just the economic situation of the whole country. Ordinary Jamaicans cannot possibly be in a better place, economically or socially. Wages for most people have barely moved over the past three years, yet many basic prices have soared, driven in part by an exchange rate that has plummeted. Bus and utility costs have been rising in the 20 percent region for the past two years, so how on Earth can the average person be in a better place?

Just driving through town this morning, I saw what a better place looks like:

  • man walking with sneakers, with no laces, whose tongue flapped on the front of it
  • a man begging me to let him wash my car, as the only possible source of income he could find–he, at least offered a service for the money, whereas many like him just put out a hand and “beg a money”
  • hordes of people waiting for buses to go to work in Kingston
  • hordes of people standing in buses on their way to work in Kingston
  • hordes of cars, stuck in traffic jams on their way to Kingston, while yellow JUTC buses sail freely in a designated lane–tax payers seeing their dollars working, working, working, but not for them…
  • ladies standing at the traffic lights, dressed in their bright aprons selling ripe bananas and newspapers–that’s what new jobs look like for a good number of people, and the career ladder is short
  • a friend suffering aches and pains, thinking he has Chikungunya, and having taken the last of the paracetamol that he could afford–the virus, would have to go of its own accord
  • gullies filled with rotten garbage, just as they have been very single day that I have driven past them for the past 15 months
  • piles of uncollected garbage bags standing outside homes, many of which have been ripped and their contents strewn on the sidewalk and road
  • vendors, vendors, vendors…that’s the growing economy: find a patch to stand on and try to sell something: mosquito zappers are booming

That’s which better place?

Maybe, the statement was unfinished. Better place than would have been the case? That’s unproveable, so let’s put that to one side.

Polticians get little reward from making simple, honest statements. Sometimes, they say what they mean, even though another phrase was intended. The truth often finds its way to the surface. Did the PM really say that her administration was “doing less with more”? She certainly did, according to this video clip.


A blunder? The honest truth? Maybe, that’s a better place, too?

Doing less with more, indeed.

If the potholes that are filled in and washed away with the first heavy rains are anything to go by…They are deeper, deeper, deeper. I now watch carefully as drivers try to dodge them but also try to avoid going over the side of the hills I travel daily.

I’ve already mentioned the garbage-filled gullies…and the uncollected garbage…including, at my house…

I read about Portmore–build on swamp land, which never seemed to get properly drainage. Now, the mosquito problem that I remember from when I went there in the 1980s has gotten worse and the diseases that come from mosquitoes are still prevalent and have a new twist. Public health services are deplorable and we have few signs that public health issues are taken seriously, in actions, rather than endless rhetoric…

But, we have more ports… Better by far?

The new north-south highway, which the PM proudly reminded her audience had its ground broken by her, and also the finished road opened by her. A new toll road–you pay to drive to repay the finance. But, the existing H2000 going east-west, I heard last week, is taking in less revenue than projected. Tolls have risen, and taken their toll in falling usage. Better by far? People, with limited funds, have to make saving where they can. It’s not rocket science.

Maybe, the Opposition should ask to be taken on a guided tour of this better place. I’m going to try to find it on Google.

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. :)

2 thoughts on “Jamaica is in a better place? Where?”

  1. As I said in a piece i wrote on the same myopic speech the PM delivered to her thousands of party faithfuls…..Someone asked Jesus to fix Jamaica. He replied…”I can’t”


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