I was not surprised to read that a UWI survey found 60 percent of Jamaican youths thought politicians were incapable of managing the country’s affairs. Nearly 40 percent found politicians unimportant. Sadly–as is often the way–we have little context. How do our youth compare to others in the region or North America or western Europe? Maybe, that will come.
The findings are consistent with the results of national elections, where decreasing numbers have voted. That represents a lack of faith in a process–electoral politics. Of course, politicians are seen as unimportant: they are. Just a random extract from the news tells us that government and political bodies are not delivering what people want or need.
First, a private telecommunications company provides a community school with basic sanitation. Digicel provided basic water and flush toilets to Rodney Hall Basic School.
Why? Because government hadn’t. Need? Obvious. Means? Maybe, not currently available, but had been along the way? How do I know that? Because money had been spent on other things, many of which were not essential. Why would young people, of any, hold those in charge of national resources in high regard? From the cradle, they are being ignored in the most basic of ways. It stinks, and they are telling us so.
Next, the auditor general finds problems with the ministry of education procurement procedures. Why? Two members of a nine member committee approved spending of J$550 million in two meetings. As we delve, we may find mitigation, but from the outset we see the impressions of impropriety. Quorum for the committee? Five. Oh, dear. List of appointed members and letters of appointment? Oh, dear, they must have been eaten by the dog…let me check in these pants pocket…I’ll get back to you. Control of inventory records? Who invented those? I jest, but you get the drift. It smell fishy. It hints of fingers in pies. It points to a lack of awareness of how to properly manage the country’s money. We’ve seen and heard of it far too often.
Over the short time that I have been living in Jamaica again on a daily basis, the litany of missteps by government agencies is as many as the potholes I have to encounter on a daily basis. They are many more than the water lock-offs that have been announced for the regular drought problems. They have exceeded the number of weeks that the Jamaican dollar has strengthened against the US dollar (that’s a bit nerdy). Government has not done much to inspire confidence in its ability to handle anything.
My question would be, therefore, who in Jamaica would have views much different from the youths? Other recent Don Anderson polls (published in December) gave the government low marks for its performance, and the opposition was only seen as slightly better. Put differently, only 11 percent and 22 percent gave the government and opposition, respectively, positive marks. That is, hardly anybody thinks politicians are doing a good job.
Now, in a country with a good degree of integrity, that message would be heard and several things would happen. One is that the government would present itself to the people for a renewal of its mandate. Another is that the opposition would make a good play that its (low) positive rating was twice that of the government, and press for a chance to have the mandate given to it–it would be a hard sell, though, given the paltry figures. Instead? A string of indications that politicians regard the populace with indifference, most of the time, with the ruling party’s chairman having the audacity to consign one body of critical comments to the dustbin labelled ‘articulate minority’.
Another thing that would not be at all surprising would be for the elected leader of the country, in this case, the prime minister, to make a good, sincere-sounding effort to reassure the country that all is being handled well, that times are hard but care is still uppermost in the minds and actions of the government, blah, blah. Yes, many people would see through the spin doctoring, but they’d like the little stroking that comes with this sort of things.
As far as I know, and I may be totally out to lunch, no such efforts have been made. I do not call the standard Christmas and New Year’s messages anything other than a nice attempt to pass of season’s greetings. That is not what I wait on from politicians, especially a leader.
Funnily, I was driving through a part of Spanish Town yesterday, and talking about some recent shootings. My fellow passenger was talking about the ‘area leader’. We both laughed at the idea that some unelected gangman could appropriate any ‘leader’ title, and make it stick. But, with guns and ammo, you can do a lot, I imagine. However, the point was, that he and his brother, even though they were in jail, were getting their troops to act and ‘deal’ with situations. The presence of the absent was seemingly as strong as if they were right there in the middle of March Pen. Do the Jamaican people get the same feeling?
Prick them and check. Call me when you get a response.