I see the problem clearly. The solutions are also there to see. But, the problem persists. The media get excited about an issue, and it hits newspaper pages, radio and television feature it on news and current affairs. We may even get a quick ‘investigation’. Then, like a lead balloon, the interest wanes, sometimes suddenly, sometimes like a slow drip from the tap.
You can look at any week. We see ‘big news’ and big concerns. Admittedly, our media focus tends to be on government and how it delivers on promises. Issues are raised. Ministers or top officials speak. Action may be promised. Interest wanes. Officials go back to ‘business as usual’, we assume, because little more is heard.
The media, at least, should be following. But, as someone said to me a few weeks ago, we have reporters, not journalists, by which was meant we do not have people who will investigate and pursue, and press, and stay on the case to a clear resolution.
The situation rarely changes because those who are due to perform know that there is little real consequence to not performing. I will cite a few examples, including some based on personal experience.
This week, I was annoyed by the seeming lack of advocacy on citizens’ behalf by organisations charged with consumer protection. I wrote a letter on Sunday to both major newspapers. I also sent a message on Monday morning (using Facebook) to the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC). Both papers published my letter, not on the same day. I got a query from the CAC on Monday afternoon asking (and I quote) “Please name the industry and or organization and I will be happy to inform you of the work being done on your behalf”. I have since heard nothing from the CAC. While I am writing now, I sent them a little nudge, noting that I had heard nothing since. I will keep at them, until they live up to their promise.
We had, several weeks ago, a familiar situation, where a major public event left ticket holders unhappy at the seeming lack of value for money. In this case, it was the final day of Champs. That will go down, not just as a day of records and another win for Calabar and Edwin Allen high schools, but also as the day when some ticket holders were denied entry to the stadium because it was deemed ‘full’. The organizers were quickly criticised for overselling the event. They quickly came to their defence on radio (Beyond the headlines), and opened the possibility of refunds. Since, that little teaser trail has gone as cold as ice. Letters were written and published in the papers, and the Gleaner ran a strong editorial on April 3, dealing with the thorny topics of ticket sales and allocations and then the matter of entrance denied to ticket holders–‘ticketing ‘issues’ at the entrance on the games’ closing day because of security measures imposed by the police to deal with potential problems’. The Gleaner went on to ask ‘ISSA should say how many tickets were printed for each day, how they were either distributed or sold, and how many were redeemed at the gates and how the problems of the past will finally be fixed.’ To date (and I am using information found online), I have not seen a reply that the Gleaner has published. If they have had one, let’s see it, please. I’ve sent a message to the Gleaner, as I write, asking if ISSA has responded.
We have, sadly, become accustomed to this seeming indifference to follow-up on requests or promises made. As an economist, it’s simple to understand: there are few, if any, consequences for non-performance. Therefore, non-performance won’t diminish. Ministers are not seen to press their staff or themselves to deliver. We saw in Parliament just last week the tardiness in dealing with requests under Freedom of Information. At the end of last year, the Speaker of the House of Representatives ruled that Parliament has the right to all of the documents related to the Outameni purchase. To date, has that right been fulfilled?
I am not even going to touch now on what some may see as bigger issues in the nation. But, as some would say, you need to take out all the little weeds for any garden to grow well.
My daughter has the habit of saying “I’m coming” and then not moving. I could blame it on some gene she has picked up from her Jamaican parent. But, if I have it, I have had it modified, by being in environments that held me to account for either non-delivery or late delivery.
Of course, we also know that bluster and huff and puff are part of the dance of actually not doing much. I’ve heard enough of that to know that hot air is all that is being offered. But, the counterpart is that hot air is all that is expected.
Jamaica loves “Soon come”, and for people here the idea that time is elastic is legendary, but we also are too accustomed to “Never reach”. As J.M. Keynes wrote, ‘In the long run, we are all dead’. For some, that is what they hope will ‘deal’ with the annoying habit of expecting things to be done.