This is the day! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

With sincere apologies to my devout friends who thought that this was going to be about the religiosity of Sundays, it isn’t. But, it may come close to touching on what is clearly a matter of faith for many people.

Today, the PM-PNP President will address a mass (not religious) rally in Half Way Tree, Kingston. Now, for many this is THE day, when the lady, having been ‘touched by her Master’, is expected to announce the date of the next general election. Well, about time! Many put off plans for Christmas waiting for the present that was not delivered of an election before year-end. In the words of another great female PM (Margaret Thatcher), ‘The time [was] not ripe“.

Jamaica has been in the midst of its own election dysfunction for months, and is ready to be touched so that we can release all the pent-up pressure that has come from the titillation of the people. If you weren’t for fixed term elections before, I’m pretty sure that your state of fed-upness is pushing you in that direction, now.

Just to give you and idea of how the silliness of the election on-off frenzy has been, I will tell a short story. Those who know me well, know that I now walk a little Shitzu poodle most days, and practice some golf in the process, but just get only exercise groove on and think while I’m at it. So, after my wife–freshly back from a jaunt to Washington–said she was going to go for a walk, and I asked her to take the dog, and she got out her laptop and went to work on some applications, I took the dog for our regular stroll. I was on the golf course barely a few seconds when a man with a French accent yelled at me: “PNP!” I looked puzzled, and he jogged past me point at me. Oh! The centime dropped: I was wearing my orange trunks–it had rained heavily last night and I was just donning those to deal with the wealth of wet grass. 

I recalled that, leading into December, I had thought long and hard (as befits election dysfunction :)) about my choice of outfit for golf tournaments each week. I did not don the green or orange shirts that would have been ideal. The reason was obvious. But, my orange trunks? And for a foreigner to notice it!

My wife told us over breakfast that we would not be going to church because of the roads being blocked off for the rally. My daughter–all of 12 years old, but sharp as a tack (for which, I blame her parents)–asked if we could not go anywhere else. When I pointed out that it was just roads into and out of Half Way Tree that were affected, she piped up: “Let’s go to the rally, then!” I’m sure she has latched onto the carnival-like atmosphere that passes for electioneering in Jamaica. She probably thought the ‘Mama P’ would be exhorting the people to keep “working, working, working” to the strains of the latest Rihanna hit, ‘Work’.

Anyway, once she got the lesson that ‘it was not that kind of rally’, she went back to her ‘work’ putting songs onto her iPod…

Now, serious people are falling over themselves to see if they can ‘call’ the date of the election. One major paper is touting February 29. Well, lots of odd things happen when you choose the extra day that a Leap Year creates. For instance, what date would you cite in the future to celebrate the victory? Would you only celebrate every four years? Those who have Leap Year birthdays can offer advice on the problems of February 29. But, in the land of the supreme search for the ‘permanent payday’ of a lottery win, maybe 29 is a good number. I know nothing about astrology, but a quick Internet search showed me that ’29’ is NOT auspicious. Notably, the ‘29 Degrees of all signs bring about the ending of events in the life, such as relationships, leaving a place of residence and so forth…’ Oh, dear. Moving boxes… Hmm.

I’m not entering that guessing game. (I’m an economist that is not too much into forecasting.) In all of my 60-odd years, I have never been eligible to vote in Jamaican elections; now that has changed, and I want the full excitement (election destruction theme, still going :)) of casting my ballot and getting the red ink on my finger. (Oh, how I remember the joys of people showing off that digit–Warmington-style, when that was not offensive–to indicate that they had voted.)

I’m fascinated to see, though, how people’s comportment changes, if and when the date is announced. I know many smart people who swear they will not vote. They are ‘Tiyurrrd’, to use the exaggerated phrase of Wally British, and know that politicians need to “get their act together”, otherwise… 

Those who are waiting for social issues to become a major part of the electioneering shenanigans had better check that you are not asymptomatic suffers of Zik-v. It must be the fever that’s affecting your heads. Chicken back, crab back, crab in a barrel, back road, Man-a-yard, Clarks, house on the hill, back-and-forth. That’s what’s on the menu.

Much of the debate will be like the ‘conversations’ dogs have.  (This from my walk.) 

This video doesn’t exist
 In the meantime, now that I am back from walking, I will have a chat with the god (I typed ‘dog’ but it was autocorrected…in some fiendishly Freudian way, so I’m leaving it :)) and see which way he thinks it will go. Listen, he’s as good a pollster as any I’ve read or heard, so don’t diss my pooch! 🙂


The job of creating jobs

Whether or not Jamaica hurtles into an election tomorrow, or in the next few weeks, or not until 2017, an albatross is sitting on its shoulders–a lack of jobs.

What Dr. Peter Phillips has done in holding Jamaica on a prescribed course with its IMF programme is not trivial. Some people don’t like the make-up of Fund programmes, but even if you don’t like them, it’s important for many reasons to demonstrate that a country can make commitments and keep to them. I think many foreign and local investors will take more from that than the fact that the passing of tests has or has not produced something more tangible in terms of growth and jobs. It’s not just the adage of the banker that “My word is my bond”: if you cannot be relied upon to keep up your end of any bargain, it’s not long before you are not at any bargaining table, or if you are, people are leery of your commitments.

The jobs gap, though, is a big one and a problematic one. Jamaica is not alone by any stretch of the imagination in seeking growth and jobs. A feature of the period through which the world economy is going is what’s termed a ‘jobless recovery’. It’s nothing new, but its presence has been looming large during the period since 2000, notably in the major industrial countries which are sources of demand for smaller economies like Jamaica.

The issue of jobs has many facets, not just income from productive actives, but the impact of people of being valued, having prospects, being inspired to do more for more pay, having the possibility to themselves be employers, and much more. There’s the simple truth that most of our societies value workers, and worse have a negative attitude towards those who are not working. (I smile at that, because being a pensioner, and comfortable in my early retirement, I’m often bombarded with remarks about needing to ‘go out to work’. If I did that would be at least one less job available for someone else. :))

I read a comment on Facebook yesterday by a corporate standout, and how he saw ‘able-bodied’ men standing on the road side doing things that implied they were being idle, while beside them a lady was selling newspapers. The notion of ‘able bodied’ is one of those that is loaded. I may look able-bodied, but be of sound mind, or I may have ailments that are not visible in terms of what they do not allow me to do. I know that, well. For years, I’ve been an athlete and am still very active, physically. But, the day after I have I have taken a long walk or played a round of golf, walking about 10 kilometers, my legs are dead and aching. I am sore and the years of sports abuse are taking their toll. I can often be seen taking the strain off my legs just to be able to try again another day. I’m now in my 60s and that painful reality started to hit me in my mid-40s, when I was coaching and finding that standing on the sidelines was killing my knees. Now, it’s my ankles, and sometimes my hips. I watched some former professional American footballers playing a charity event a few weeks ago. One, Richard Dent, in his mid-50s, was stumbling along and could not take a very upright stance when playing golf. He looked arthritic, and probably was. I know that he, along with many others who had great professional working careers as athletes, is suffering the impact of years of physical punishment, including concussions. Able-bodied? Check your value judgements.

The off side to seeing ‘able’ people is who is going to en-able them? Many talk glibly about people needing to ‘get a job’. Do they have a job to offer, or know someone who is looking for a worker, and are they prepared to do the simple next step of making the connection? Many people, with few marketable skill, offer themselves for work, but with little success. I recall writing about a man who preferred to not beg, but offered to wash my car. If I said no, he had to try someone else, and so on. I know people who spend part of their days farming near urban areas. We may see them later ‘looking idle’, but having been up before dawn and done the day’s field work, they have nothing else to do in that area. Some do things like this and have the help of a few assets, which could make them productive in other places, at other times, eg the man who can get his hands on a weed whacker. All of that seems simple, without thinking about people with low skills competing with each other.

How many have gone through the process of repeated job application with no positive result? I remember the shock I got when I lost my first job, while at university, hearing on the radio that the company for whom I was working at the time was going into liquidation. I had an hour to leave the premises, along with everyone else. “Don’t come back, tomorrow! We’ll send your pay.” Boom! I have skills, but it was no easy task to get another job at the time, and I had been making plans based on my jobs lasting. Oops!

But, for every person driving by comfortable in the position of having a ‘good’ job, how many have offered to employ anyone? Of course, some will say they do that because they have domestic workers in their pay, and I would not argue against that. But, could they employ one more person? I don’t know.

My daughter, in her late-20s, has worked all the time since she left university in Canada. She’s rare for her generation of graduates. But, I remember advising her that getting work  experience was better than getting ‘the job you want’. Doors open and close, but it’s important to get through a door, first. Her working career has been productive and interesting and she’s able to do other ‘work’ that’s fun–coaching kids in her spare time and being paid for it.

Where I live two men do gardening for the complex and many of the houses. Some have their own gardeners. The two men would love it if they could get those other jobs, too. They also offer themselves to do any odd job that may attract pay. They’re in a good place, literally and figuratively.

We are familiar with the sight of vendors in Jamaica. But, how many of those sellers are really doing more than just break even? We don’t have a welfare support system to give them alternatives, but if you’re selling $1000 and spending $1000 to do that, the logic is clear. But, active is good, we say.

But, our economy isn’t going to thrive by having lots of people employed in menial jobs. The chicken and egg is that with low educational or technical skills in plentiful supply, we need lots of those jobs, but they are not going to propel the country.

We’ve made individual and collective mistakes in educating and training people, though. It’s not becoming apparent that we have been churning out too many lawyers. Laws the prospect of much better than average pay, but unemployment is unemployment. What to do with that training? Migrate?

How many of our better educated or trained people are able to turn that intellectual or technical ability in other ways? Some of the ‘work’ that people need to do, sadly for them, may come with little pay, i.e. a lot of volunteer or non-profit work is out there to do. But, if it can’t put food on the table or pay bills, is it right to channel people to do such ‘service’ or ‘sacrifice’?

Who’s prepared to share a job?

Fixing some macroeconomic problems is not going to get Jamaica where it needs to be with employment; the world is not conveniently set up like that. We’re also in a competitive environment as far as attracting foreign investment. Last week, I read how the point of interest for English-speaking Caribbean countries was moving from Trinidad towards Jamaica. Sounds good? But, how many of the Trinidad-owned enterprises in Jamaica are going to run into trouble, and are Jamaican investors ready to step in if that happens, to salvage what jobs they now offer? Just another wrinkle in the sheet.

How good are we at seeing and taking opportunities? Is something holding people back from creating jobs? JEEP, and other social support programmes like that put people to work, but is it in what we call ‘permanent’ work?

Island Grill expanded their presence recently by opening in Mandeville. I know that the young people I saw working there looked happy at the counter. Were they working before? Did they think they would be in the food serving business? Is that a ‘good’ job? Food-selling is one of our thriving sectors, judging by what I see. That, and hospitality, is an area where we can build on what we say we have as national ‘attributes’, such as friendliness. But, how much friendliness do we need to show to get more hospitality business?

On the other side, how much unfriendliness can the rest of the world take? It’s hard to quantify, but our murder rate has been an enormous turn off for many investors. I’ve said before that a significant part of the country has not bought into the notion of working to build the whole country: I put criminals squarely into that bag. But, again, crime like we have is another by-product of a country that has failed to provide work for enough young people. We won’t beat crime in a stagnant economy, and it’s been stagnant for most decades of my life.

So, while Dr. Phillips basks in the accolades of being the Gleaner’s Man of the Year, eyes should turn to him and his leader to see what they can do to deal with the joblessness that has become as normal as repeated droughts, or sunny days. Joblessness is like permanent darkness for some, and it’s time to figure out how to bring in some light.

Why is our National Prayer Breakfast not national?

Last week, Jamaica had its National (Leadership) Prayer Breakfast. According to reports I have seen, it’s in its 36th staging, and comes from the ‘Church’s push for peace, justice, reconciliation and unity in the nation following the bloody general election of 1980’. The aim, as cited on the Jamaica Information Service website is ‘to foster greater unity in the nation, particularly among the nation’s leaders at all levels’ [my stress]. Now, I’m all for national unity. But, as with many things, the path to that can vary in the eyes of each of us. Personally, I think Jamaica has moved past the time when a staged, set-piece occasion such as this remains ‘fit for purpose’. Without meaning to disrespect anyone, leadership models in Jamaica leave a lot to be desired. However, having said that, it seems that the objective could be given more sincerity with a little change. I would suggest that the time has come to focus on the ‘national’, and less on the ‘leadership’. Why do I say that?

For too long, the society has been searching ‘to be led’, rather than finding ways to ‘lead itself’. I take one simple example, that is both timely and appropriate–the spread of infectious diseases. As we enter another year when a mosquito-borne infection is set to pose all kinds of hazards, we see the flurry of activity to clean up, and urge people to clean up. But, you don’t have to go far, or ask many people, to find out that much of the problem resides in people ‘waiting for someone to do something’. If each journey starts with a single step, then so too does every solution start with a single action.

Whether it’s ignorance, wanton disregard, downright nastiness or any combination of negative sentiments, we have lots of people who do not see cleanliness as being something they need to practice. Last weekend I was driving to the north coast, on a back road, with hardly a vehicle passing either way. The car in front of me was speeding to get somewhere, without much regard for the fact that the road was windy through the mountains. The verge of the road looked quite tidy, by anyone’s standard. Then, out of the window came a plastic bottle and food container. OK. So, meal and drink were finished, but where did the notion that throwing it out into the road come from? Who was expected to deal with that? I couldn’t get up to ask the question, and the road was too windy to stop and pick up the garbage safely, without risking a car hitting me. But, I wondered.

We see people pouring buckets filled with trash into gullies. Why? They say they have no regular garbage collections, and no one has place collection bins anywhere so that they could dispose of the rubbish in another way. Now, I’m not an engineer, and I do not manage the resources of NSWMA, but I thought. What would it take for each community to build (or have built for them) some bamboo bins that could be placed at many points, and would be ‘collection points’, easier to service than if it were from every house? The idea may need refining, but the notion seems simple. If you don’t offer an answer to an obvious problem, then the problem must remain. We know the problem is ‘what to do with garbage’, but what are we waiting for? Don’t keep telling me ‘It’s a lack of resources’. It’s a lack of will!

So, back to the breakfast. If you want to unify, why not do that directly? Why try to do it through a range of people who are not necessarily seen as unifying. What is wrong with the ‘breakfast’ being a truly national event? If someone’s calendar has it set for mid-January every year, well maybe we have to just say go with that. But, lets’s think about what we want to do, not what seems convenient–that’s the garbage problem.

If the idea is to get religious focus onto things, then that theme can always be at the core. But, what is wrong with the idea–like on Labour Day–of the nation ‘being called’ to act as one on a certain day? Personally, I’d prefer if each person were left to bring their own religious context to it, if they so choose.

I like the idea of the ‘national’ unity breakfast being part of our Independence ‘celebrations’. Our national motto of ‘out of many, one people’ is a strong bond. Holding the ‘national breakfast’ then would deal with the problem of asking everyone to give a little of their time to unify. We would have few issues about work, school, or other important things missed, as it’s already a holiday. If we want to have the symbolism of national leaders being front and centre, let them have their moment, but keep it brief and keep it apolitical. If we could say to the nation that on August 6, at 7am, the nation would be called to ‘break fast’ together, then we could mobilize around that. Start your feting with it, by all means. If you want to hold special services for it, run with that. If you want to have breakfast TV shows focused on the theme, then, run with. The idea is the nation will know that each person has been called ‘to arms’, in a sense, and we could use as the ‘prayer’, the singing of the National Anthem.

Maybe, I’m being naive, but that seems to have more of the body of unification embodied in it than does an event that is for the few, supposedly acting for the many. Think about it.

What’s integrity got to do with it?

My mind had moved initially towards discussing integrity in sports. That was partly prompted by bubbling speculation about ‘match fixing’ in professional tennis. Gambling on results is almost as old as competition, so it’s no wonder that as technology has changed and real-time results start to flood the airwaves, the many things on which one can wager increased, and the money to be made on them also increased. Who will serve the first double fault is a reasonable wager, and it’s an easy thing to set up; not as complicated as rigging a whole match. That’s a feature of many aspects of life, as is the fact that it’s really only those at the very top who can rely on the big contracts and easy life of prize money and endorsements. Those–the majority–who labour at their love and try to make a living have to find money where they can. “Psst! Got a proposition for you…” seems not too hard, and the traceability of such deals can be really hard.

But, my mind was also on the wider issue of conduct of professional athletes. Many are thrust into positions for which few are well trained and maybe not well-suited. I have a side eye on Chris Gayle’s latest barrage of word, not really because of him specifically but what he may represent. We–the paying public, and they–the deep-pocketed sponsors, have created some terrible creatures who are living a life that is so unreal as to be unreal. The ability to hit a leather ball with a block of wood with prodigious force is not the stuff of magic. But, we and they like entertainment, and we’ve shown over many centuries that we are prepared to pay highly for such diversions. Who would pay a lot of money to see a man plaster a wall in record time? Maybe, that will be a ‘sport’ in the future. It’s not that plastering is not especially skillful–it is, as you’d know when your plaster keeps falling of the wall or dropping from the ceiling. It’s just that we’ve not decided to make it competitive and market it.

There’s nothing intrinsically wonderful about being able to roll a ball at speed with your feet, or throw it accurately to another person running at speed for them to catch, or to swim fast or long distances. They are challenges, which we humans take on and try to outdo each other. We know people pit animals against each other, as racers, or fighters. I’d put my Shitzu puppy up for running after golf balls, or being able to jump twice his height at the click of a finger. 

Check my skills on the greens
 If we were to say that the average athlete is no more than a circus animal, many would get upset. But, what is the real difference?

What’s the real difference between the circus animal and the professional athlete?
But, the fact that big bucks go into the pockets of the athletes transforms them and transforms those around them.

Let’s be generous and say that some move onto a new and higher standard of living, way beyond that of average workers. they then hold out a dream for others to follow. I’m sure tigers are not sitting in the jungle purring and wondering when they will get their big break in the Big Top. We, higher-thinking beings, though, are mulling such thoughts.

Having reached that new financial height, the pro athlete often forgets that he is just a mere human. We see the extremes of behaviour and disregard for the mores of the rest of the world as indicative of how far they have come from the simple origin of child with talent, who kept improving it, till someone paid lots of money to see it on display.

That many forget those simple facts allows them to behave as if we owe them something. You don’t have to be a wizard to realize that if you do something that many people dislike, chances are you should think about not doing it again. If you do it in the public gaze, chance are that more people will find it and express their views. And so on.

I thought it odd that two female politicians took issue with men commenting about how they were dress (our MP Lisa Hanna and UK minister Theresa May) and both sent back verbal salvos to say “That’s not right!”

Back to ‘Chris’ (a metaphor, not necessarily the man, specifically). Imagine that he were on the studio set of a live profile interview with the very famous TV journalist, Katie Couric (who, happens to be a multimillionaire with net worth far in excess of even many well-paid athletes). Imagine that he decided to ignore Katie’s question about his life, and start to comment about her eyes and suggest they have a drink afterwards…

Part of the discussion revolves around how each party sees the other. If ‘Mel’ had been or ‘greater’ standing, would that have mattered? Would she have been taken more seriously when trying to do her job? It’s a point to consider.

There are many layers to relationships and whether due respect is given. On the sports field, it’s often easier to see who ‘earns’ or ‘deserves’ it (the faster, stronger, more skillful, etc.). If you’ve been used to being in that category, do you assume it’s your rightful place in all circumstances?

I’m sure there’s a gambling syndicate who is pondering wagers on what a famous athlete will say next and where? Who knows, maybe it was all part of nicely arranged bet. #Justsaying…

Tongue-tied? Isn’t being a refugee hard enough? 

Should the English-speaking world help humankind and not take in any more refugees until it fixes a major problem? 

I was listening this morning to the BBC, and a Syrian refugee telling how he had been abused: “They hitted me, bad,” he said. The penny dropped like a lead weight. Amongst the many things displaced people may have to go through is surviving in another language. English, with its odd rules and seeming absence of rules is just a bridge too far.

How would he know that, while the past tense of fit is fitted, the past tense of sit is sat? For hit, the past tense is also hit, not hitted. For spit, we have spat. The past tense of tick is ticked; the past tense of sick in sick. Wicked is not necessarily the past tense of to wick, and wicket relates to the wicked game of cricket. That’s barely scratching the surface of the seemingly bizarre ‘rules’ of English. Isn’t it time, like going metric, that English just gets itself standardized?

If not, I may need to form a lingustic equivalent of ‘Doctors without borders’ (medecins sans frontiers), to go into the field and help refugees struggling through the minefield of my native tongue. 

Good surfaces, if given a chance–that constant Jamaican conundrum

I headed off to a mid-morning meeting with barely a care in the world. I had a 15 minute drive and had left with 20 minutes to spare. I was passing the Texaco gas station at Barbican, when I thought about taking out some cash from an ATM. I turned into the station, saw no parking by the ATM but a space by the shop. I was at the wrong angle, but could turn in, with a little care. I headed to the spot, maneuvering past a gas pump. Then I heard a horrible grating sound on the passenger side of the car. I looked into the wing mirror and saw I was well clear of the pump. What had I hit? “Back up!” an attendant told me, so I did. I stopped and went to assess the damage. The side of the car had scraped against a concrete column set to protect the corners of the stand housing the pumps; it was in my blind spot. I pulled the car into the parking spot, looked at the damage again, and headed to the ATM. “It’s a company car?” another attendant asked; I told her no. “It can rub out, man, with compound.” I thanked her. The line of men outside the ATM joked that it could be an expensive visit. I smiled. A man came out and said “Worse now! The machine empty!” The next man went in, and confirmed; no cash to be had from this Scotiabank site. I walked back to the car. As I approached it, I saw a group of attendants looking at the area of the damage. “It’s fixed!” an attendant yelled, as he rose with a rag in his hand. I looked at the car and saw just the merest hint that it had been scraped. The car had been washed this morning, so the area was easy to see.

Damage barely visible

“I’m thankful, for that!” I told him. “It’s nothing, man,” and he went back into the shop. The other attendants went back to pumping gas.

As I’ve said often, many good people live in Jamaica, doing the right things and expecting little in return besides the chance to have that done to them in return.

I went on to my meeting, and relayed the brief story on arrival. I was content with that. But, I still needed the cash, and decided to pass by UWI on my way to do school pick-up, knowing that the Scotia branch there is usually quiet.

When I got there in the early afternoon, I found parking just by the ATM. I got out and asked the guard if the tellers were busy. He nodded and said the line was long, so I just went to the machines. I tried to take out what I wanted but the machine was only giving small amounts and in $500 bills, so I decided to withdraw from the teller. When I got inside I saw the ‘line’ was two deep 🙂 The manager was walking past and told him what the guard had said, and we both dropped into a big laugh. But, he told me that the branch was a cash-less one, so I still needed to use the ATM, but one gave bigger denominations, and the full limit. I headed out, and started withdrawals again. Done, I headed to my car, and was driving ahead, when the guard jumped in front of the car. “Stop!” I looked ahead and remembered that the road had spikes and I needed to reverse. I thanked him and backed out, then drove to school.

It was about a good hour before pick-up, so I caught up on messages, and had some light chatter with some of the school teachers and administrators. After about an hour, I went back out to wait for my daughter. Just before she arrived, a guard came to the car. “Your tyre looks like it needs air.” I got out; the tyre was flat. I went to get the spare, and started to take off the damaged tyre. I hoisted up the car on the jack and started to loosen the bolts. “Wait up, Mr. D! Let me help!” A driver I knew was stretching out his hand. He took the wrench from me and finished off removing the bolts. I got the spare out of the back. My daughter arrived, licking an ice cream. I explained what was happening. She happily went on licking. After a little playing with readjusting the jack and taking off and putting on types, we were good to go. I was sweating, but said I was glad this was not in the much colder air that is now in Washington DC. I thanked the driver and the guard and went to wash off my hands.

The school staff wondered how I had suddenly got sweaty; I explained. Cleaned up, I headed out and drove home.

They say bad things happen in threes, so I hope my three things–concerning the car–are done. I will try later to find the 24-hour tyre repairer and get my flat fixed.

Genuine kindness is all around. Don’t let it get swamped by more negative sentiments and actions.

The truth, the whole truth…

I’m not trying to tell anyone how to do their job, just making a plea from the ranks of the ‘articulate minority’. I like to feel that I can weigh facts for myself and make my own conclusions, but should I have to spend my time dealing with whether the claims and counter claims that many make are correct?

This morning, I read an interesting piece from an Opposition politician, who took issue with the truthfulness of claims made by a soon-to-be-former-MP, setting out data that seemed to show that porky pies were being told by the MP. Robert Morgan took on Damion Crawford’s contention that the latter was focusing on education in his constituency.

In my mind, sifting through the simple facts is part of what good, investigative journalism should include. When it’s not done, one has to ask the question ‘Why?’

I’m sure we would hear claims of competing priorities, limited resources, lack of public interest, and a raft of other reasons why this isn’t done. But, especially as we move tiptoeingly towards a national election, who will help us in this area? The other body that could be helping is academics.

Our media often focus on the peripheral aspects but less on the basic nuts and bolts of what politicians do, say or write. It’s grunt work. In that vein, Susan Goffe just wrote a short piece on how often MPs attend Parliament. Telling us whether politicians are ‘on the curve’ is less likely to sell papers than showing people the curves of leggy ladies. Which is more important?

We all know, or should know, that everyone can be selective in what they share about what they do. But, there is a base that can be built that shows what has actually been done, so that we can see or understand that selectivity. Any journalist want to help in this effort? 🙂


Gayle-force winds and economic growth: follow the money

Pardon me, again, for donning my economist cap, this time in connection with the swirl of bad publicity circling Chris Gayle. But, just a thought.

Whatever we in Jamaica may think about his behaviour, our view doesn’t rule the day.

One point worth considering is who would want to associate with Jamaicans and Jamaica? Someone posed the question the other day along the lines of ‘Why do we only seem to get shady investors?’ One answer to that is the simple truth that our economic, political and social environment only attracts certain sorts of people. For sure, some reputable investors will swallow their distaste for our ways and put their money here because we offer something unique or hard to get elsewhere. But, apart from that ‘special’ thing, what do we have to attract investors?

People will jump up and say “Our people! We are friendly and easy-going…” Maybe. Maybe not.

Investors with good reputations are not normally known to think hard about not putting money into bad places: it just makes bad financial sense.

So, if you know that a culture and society harbours a certain view that is not in line with yours, you look elsewhere. Enter Mr. Gayle, bat twirling, locks flowing, tongue wagging, and attitude out-front.

If he is meant to be what some proudly say ‘represents how we are’, would you want a workforce built on that? Or, would you want to bring in a workforce that will be subjected to that? Answer that, then step aside and move on to more pressing matters.

In a world where ‘social responsibility’ covers good deeds and good behaviour, especially in keeping the workplace as somewhere that is a ‘level playing field’, where do you think good money will tend to flow?


When the force is not with you and a Gayle blows off-course

Perhaps it’s easier for an economist to understand that the view that the world has of you as a country or people is the sum of all the opinions that exist. Whether your national profile is positive or negative, high or low, depends on what you and your fellows do, and how you are portrayed and perceived. I look at the Chris Gayle ‘incident’ in that light, along with my views on what is acceptable behaviour. Brand Jamaica (at least), and ‘brand cricket’, and ‘brand sport’, and ‘brand man’ have been harmed by his actions. Whatever his exploits with a cricket bat, then and before, they went quickly onto the back burner because he couldn’t control himself of the cricket field.

Many public entertainers–and I include athletes in that bag–have a distorted view of public opinion, often shaped by the reactions people have to their prowess and success. (It’s not just the ‘greats’ who act out of line, but also many of those who crave public attention, and may feel unhappy with less of it. Look carefully at the behaviour of those in the middle or bottom, and what they do to try to raise their public worth.)

I don’t have any problem casting Mr. Gayle’s behaviour with a female reporter, Mel McLaughlin, as inappropriate.GAYLE_SEXISM_3540473bIt’s perhaps easier if your children are girls, but it’s not that hard a call, in my mind, in any situation. Many want to jump up and throw back that others did similar things and got little public blow back. Again, being an economist, that doesn’t make any difference: the world is not static, and reactions at a given time are a reflection of what the world thinks at that time. It may be hard to understand, and the reactions may not be constant at any time or any place. Sadly, too, the public may be fickle and give some more latitude because they ‘like’ someone more than they ‘like’ the latest perpetrator of an act. I say that to deal with Maria Sharapova at a press conference focussing on the ‘form’ of a mail reporter, and seemingly getting no public uproar. Who knows, for sure? Maybe, the world was so tired of men doing this sort of thing that they saw a woman doing it as simple catch-up. I’m not going to analyse what I see as using a wrong to justify a wrong. My view on the incidents are the same: they are both wrong.

Many may wish to see the hand of racism at play, in Mr. Gayle’s case. Maybe, it is, but if so, it would be naive to think the world is neutral. Or, maybe, someone thought that by being a ‘megastar’ the base dislike some have of particular races would disappear. Hello! Maybe, people don’t watch enough of what’s going on to see that ‘greatness’ counts for nothing in the face of some nasty attitudes. If racism is in play, then one also has to explain why a supposedly racist group would want to employ someone of a race they detest. It can be rationalized in terms of making more money (we saw it with an NBA franchise), even if in doing so one uses people one despises. It’s a hard piece of logic, but try it.

Some see issues of sexual harassment in the workplace and that is a serious concern. It’s clear that many public figures tread a fine line when it comes to what is the workplace, but it’s also the case that they should understand when those involved in making their public image are doing their jobs and just want to get on with that and then move on to other things. (If Mr. Gayle really wanted to have a date, it would not have been hard to do off-camera, or at another time. Maybe, he got caught up in the hype of public proposals. Who knows?)

Mr. Gayle wants us to lighten up because he did not mean any harm and was just trying to make a joke. Well, the test of humour is whether it makes people laugh. Also, whether you mean harm or not, when the object of your intention is offended, your intention is irrelevant. Mr. Gayle apologized and that was accepted. He made light of his apology on social media, so will now also have to deal with the swirl about his real sincerity.

Mr. Gayle was fined A$10000 (about 5000 pounds; US$7500) for his behaviour. It may seem light, given his contract for the games he has to play. But, as with many things, that may just be the first of several hits he has to weather. Let’s see how many promoters and sponsors want to be associated with his ‘image’ going forward.



Growth! Ain’t nobody’s got time for that!

Jamaica won’t become a fast-growing economy in a hurry; we have too many things pulling against our being very productive. We also talk much and act little. However, whatever growth we can muster, as measured by more (and better) goods and services, will seem vastly greater if we reduce (or eliminate) the many economic ‘bads’ we suffer and tolerate. You can make your own list of those, but to me they include high crime rates, tolerance of poor performance by public servants (including politicians), and inefficient enterprises kept afloat by public funds.

Growth is not like sheep: it can’t be steered nicely by a few exhortations. Unwillingness to move or change means a longer time stuck where you are. 

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