Unless you’ve only just come across me, you should know I’m not one for several things, including sychophancy and bluster. So, I was a bit surprised at myself as I listened to newly-sworn-in PM Andrew Holness reel off a string of things that new #NewJamaica would soon be getting. I was more taken, I guess, because the PM and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had run on a platform of performance and achievements, a point he repeated in marking the basis of his party’s victory. So, I felt his words carried real weight:
“This government has been given a mandate to move with speed and alacrity in fulfilling the great destiny of this country. We will not squander it. We will use it wisely to build public trust.”
I heard mention of several things, that if they came through, would make the Jamaica that my daughter may find at the end of her college years—she’s a high school senior—would seem a lot like many of the places she’s visited that have written all over them ‘this is the place to be’. The essence of that feeling has been around for a while; it’s the message of Vision 2030: ‘The comprehensive vision of the national development plan is to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business…’
This world would have:
Internet coverage – Mr. Holness said his government will expand broadband in public schools. He indicated that six new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) academies will be created.
“We’re committed to closing the digital divide,” Holness promised.
He said that all town centres will be serviced with free Wi-Fi as well as community access points. The public sector is to be further digitised and the National Identification System is to be implemented.
Telecommunication – Mr. Holness promised that soon there will be no more dropped calls. He says the government will build a national broadband infrastructure to be managed by a public-private entity.
“The network will be appropriately sized. This will be the new information highway,”
Now, my youngest daughter wasn’t born in Jamaica, but has been living here for the past 7 years and says she wants to live in Jamaica after she graduates from college. She’s made that easier by becoming a Jamaican citizen. First, I admire her commitment to finish education at university, not just at high school. Second, her sentiment is one that I have heard from several of her peers; children who have had more than a little glimpse of life elsewhere and its not shabby bits. Most of them come from families who livelihood have been made fully in Jamaica since Independence, some from long before. Third, this is her choice. Now, come 2025, she may say, “Daddy, I don’t think I want to live in Jamaica…” But, for now…
The swearing-in speech had lots of good-sounding nuggets, including a few throw-away comments, such as “No dropped calls”. I think I could hear the cheer across the Corporate area as those words echoed.
But, besides that and promises of WiFi in every town centre and the end to water supply woes, I heard the setting up of an ethical framework for governing that was as new a freshly minted money. The watch word was ‘integrity’. (This is an understandable repositioning, after an administration that was dogged by allegations of malfeasance and cronyism.) Now, I’ve often said that ‘integrity’ is not in any dictionary in Jamaica. But, the list of governance things outlined impressed me:
If I could really believe that Jamaica would be governed by people who saw themselves last in line, if in line at all, I’d wonder if I was dreaming. Selflessness amongst politicians isn’t easy to find in Jamaica.
Now, I’m also not one for lots of privilege that really isn’t warranted, and in that vein, I don’t much care for the assumptions of many politicians that we are their doormats. Though, it may not register so with them, that’s a feeling many have had about the way ordinary people’s needs are subordinated to those who are supposed to be serving them.
Now, I don’t think any Jamaican politician will be say “I don’t want this car” and ditch the paid-for SUV, but I’d maybe like to see some gestures to being more ordinary than exceptional. Call that humility.
If Jamaica is governed by humbled people, committed to serve on the basis of good ethical standards, then for sure the Vision 2030 outlook is really up for grabs.
Oddly, I’m not really too concerned, yet, about what I hear about economic recovery plans, because we are still not sure if we are the bottom of economic decline and the top of the COVID-19 health crisis. But, I expect to hear more clearly how that will be managed well before end-year.