Champs debacle, but any accountability?

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The dust has settled on another ISSA Champs, at the National Stadium. The sport was its usual spectacular show of the best of Jamaican school athletes. But, their performances are only part of the show. The running of the event needs assessing, too.

In keeping with good organizations, one hopes that a period of stocktaking is going on by the principal organization and by the overseeing government ministries. Things that worked well should be kept and developed and those that did not work well should be re-examined and eliminated or improved before the next set of events. However, one has to wonder if this process happens with ISSA and if it’s done with full honesty. Why do I say that?

First, it’s been clear for a long time that ISSA cannot manage well ticketing for the event. My first direct experience was in 2014 when my ticket did not give me access to the seat to which I was assigned. That year, tickets had been oversold and the police intervened to stop the stadium having too many people for safety, in their opinion. I was disappointed and had to watch Champs on TV at home, while people tried to clamber into the stadium. ISSA apologized and some talk of compensation circulated, but that fell flat. I have never bought another ticket for Champs. Why should I? It guarantees me nothing.

Since then, I have seen and heard of the debacle of getting tickets, to the extent that this year reports were circulating fast of scalpers getting tickets and many would-be spectators disappointed from before the event. Clearly, as days passed, ticket prices rose and those who wanted them badly enough had to pay dearly for the pleasure.

Many simple solutions to the ticketing problem exist, and the only issue is whether ISSA will implement any and if they do not, whether anyone will be held accountable for another debacle. So far, the evidence is that accountability is not one of the features we will see.

Second, we have several issues regarding the behaviour of schools and athletes. This year’s signature embarrassment involves a foreign student whom it appears was allowed to compete in accordance with rules but one has to wonder about the sense of the rules. Normally, if one registers for something but cannot present oneself at the due time in person, then the registration lapses. So, in a competition, that usually means disqualification. It’s tough, but that’s normal for lots of things. It’s happened to me, my team, other athletes, students sitting exams, etc. It’s life. It seems that this principle did not apply to the foreign student, with his school arguing that logistical problems prevented his arrival in the country by the due date. Well, that’s unfortunate, but better luck next time. Like my having a ticket for a flight and arriving late, I miss the flight. Simple. I cannot expect the airline to accommodate my lateness, no matter whose fault it is. From that mistake come other issues.

The said foreign student, apparently abetted by his school, paraded his national flag at the stadium in a celebratory lap. Now, let’s not confuse matters of national pride with its various displays. Of course one should be proud of one’s nation, but the time and place for such displays need to be appropriate. In my view, Champs in a national school event; it is not an competition that involves foreign schools and foreign athletes who compete for local schools are not competing for their country. Therefore, if displays of pride are to be shown at that event, I think they should be about the schools involved. Clearly, there’s a thin line because we could argue that if a student wanted to parade something that raised the pride of a local area that might seem consistent with the event. For that reason, the best way to deal with such situations is to try to cover them in the rules. That’s what ISSA did in 2015 with the ‘ambush marketing’ debacle that embarrassed one of the main sponsors, while promoting an individual athlete and his sponsor (who was not a sponsor for the event). We have had no repeat. If Champs thinks the parading of other national flags in alright, then it can state that explicitly or ban it explicitly. If it accepts it, then look out for other foreign students to do the same—there are many. It could become more embarrassing when those students come to represent Jamaica at international events, such as CARIFTA, for which they are eligible. Do we want to see an athlete representing Jamaica deciding to hoist his or her mother country flag? Think about it. If it’s the flag of another CARIFTA country, one has one type of problem; if it’s a non-member country, we have another problem. We also have the embarrassment to Jamaica of its athlete not displaying our national flag. Impossible, you may say? Really?

Finally, ISSA is one of many Jamaican organizations that appear to be laws unto themselves. They often shun publicity unless it is bad, and then there’s a rush to cover up the mistakes. They shun transparency and openness to critical opinions. That can only go on because they are shielded by the political directorate who have power over them.

This government has done much to make governing more transparent and accountable. It takes time for such an attitude at the level of the Executive to translate itself to other administrative levels. One way of getting that done faster is for the egregious examples to be highlighted and dealt with fast.

My word! A day is a long time in politics? Orwell, strap in.

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I’m not a great student of politics, but I do love language. What the new US administration has done for language is something quite extraordinary and we must embrace that we are living in such times.

Not telling the truth is now a linguistic art form. In less than a month, we have had some gems.

KellyAnne Conway gave us ‘alternative facts‘, when the Counselor to President Trump,

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So, Steve, you and I are not actually walking side by side. That’s clear, right?

appeared in late January on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd and uttered the now famour (or imfamous) phrase “alternative facts” when pressed about the falsehoods uttered the previous day by White House press secretary Sean Spicer regarding the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration. Do we need to explore the oxymoronic properties of this phrase? I thought not. Anderson Cooper, clearly could not contain himself

 

But, such terms have spawned counters that embrace it. Last night, I overheard a CNN commentator, talking to Anderson Cooper, who gave us ‘fact-free statements’, referring to utterances from the White House.

Hours later, the administration lost its first Cabinet member, when National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned,

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Michael Flynn, and his guiding light

after telling Michael Pence some huge pork pies about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador, and lifting of sanctions on Russian, which for a while he’d been reportedly been unable to recall.

 

In his resignation letter, Flynn gave us “I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information”. screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-7-45-49-amThis stands tall, compared to ‘being economical with the truth’.

If you’ve never read ‘1984’, I suggest you do so before the week is out.

Coincidences? Read The Celestine Prophesy

If you have not read The Celestine Prophesy book, do so soon. It’s essential message is simple: ‘coincidences’ or synchronicity are not accidents. You don’t believe me? Just look at yesterday. 

I spent the day working at a golf tournament. Early during my day there, I met a lady sitting near the area where I was due to work. We got talking. We discovered that we knew people in common; not such a surprise in small island communities. As I was later given my assignment in another area far from where the lady worked, I said something like “Nice to have met you.” Moments later, my ‘supervisor’ came to ask me to move to another location…right where the lady was working. We smiled and struck up conversations again. She later went on to do her thing, of checking dignataries into her hospitality area. As the afternoon wore on, it was clear that few of the expected dignatiraies were coming. The lady beckoned me to join her hospitality tent, once I had finished my shift. I moved from gatekeeper, to VIP, once I had taken off my ‘uniform’. Thank you, for the hospitality, Ms. X 🙂 (I do know her name.)

Not long after I started my shift, I met a young lady in an orange tee shirt, responsible for an adjacent VIP tent, while she was welcoming guests. I noticed the company had a connection with my wife’s local church. I mentioned that it would have been nice for the hospitality to have extended to the church, as a sign of good relationships. She nodded and acknowledged the point. Later, while I was enjoying my time as a VIP, I sidled over to the area that separated the two sets of corporate hospitality areas. I started speaking to a man with a large cigar in his mouth, who looked like he might be a CEO. We started chatting and again the point about the church came up. I mentioned my link and he said that the next day I would be free to join his group. OK. 🙂 He walked off to talk with some of the guests. Two men who had been beside him started a conversation with me, and we got onto the tortured existence of getting citizens in our region to change. Suddenly, while talking about the difficulty of our neighbouring islanders to understand each other (Jamaican Patois is often unintelligible for others), I mentioned a Russian word, and immediately one of the men made a remark in fluent Russian. He asked me if I spoke the language and I said I did. We exchanged on our history of learning it: he did so at university in Alabama during the 1980s, but had never been to Russia. I had learned my Russian in the early 1990s and had visited Russia and Russian-speaking countries many times. He is Bahamian, I am Jamaican. We could not converse well in our local dialects or languages, but we could converse in Russian. Bizarre! Or was it? The two men were readying to leave, and the orange tee shirt lady came by us. One of the men explained how we had never met but found we were ‘friends’. She looked bewildered but listened to the summary of our meeting. “That’s too much for my head!” she said. We spoke for a few moments later, then she handed me a bag, containing selected merchandise goodies that had been selected for the invited guests. Remember, I was not one of them. Nice! All that from a chance meeting. Really? 

After getting back to my mother-in-law’s house in the evening, my brother-in-law and I headed to the airport to try to deal with a damaged bag. We went to the Customs are but the officer there could not get a representative from American Airlines to answer the phone, and we were contemplating having to wait for the last flight to come in after 10pm to find someone. Then, in came a rep from Delta, and I said “We want a rep from AA to come in, now.” Boom! The door opened and in walked…an AA rep…on cue. We got the baggage claim made and left the airport. What is the probability of someone appearing seconds after you wish they would appear? I looked for my genie lamp. 🙂

Road safety-Jamaica style

I’ve had a little block in my mind over risk-taking in Jamaica, and it’s still there for the grand picture, so let me take care of part of it, by looking at one aspect of what seems like poor decision-making on a national scale.

I’ll try to set this out in terms of anecdotes that seem familiar and place them in a sort of economics frame.

Jamaica loses about one person a day from deaths in road accidents. Somewhat like murders, we have a set of constants that exist, which, if not changed, make it hard to see that the number of deaths will decline dramatically.

In an ideal world, a place would have all over it great roads and great road users. Jamaica, however, has lots of poor roads and many poor road users. Let’s try to look at both of these, as we meet them often.

Lots of poor roads: Most people in Jamaica know districts with bad roads, usually pot-holed roads badly in need of repair. Many of these are paved and some of them have barely any hard artificial covering. Such roads present dangerous driving conditions. Drivers try to avoid the holes, sometimes at speed. Sometimes, such avoidance puts at risk other road users (drivers and pedestrians), who may be in the path of the vehicles, or following nearby, and may put at risk road ‘furniture’ (lamp posts, etc.). Drivers hit holes and have their vehicles knocked off its intended path, and all of the previous set of consequences again come into play. When rain falls, the conditions of these roads tend to deteriorate rapidly, causing the driver and vehicle to deal with the need for more extreme moves to avoid problems. We also have poorly designed and constructed roads, eg with curves that are not protected or are without warning signs, which can be dangerous in general, and very dangerous in poor weather. These elements have many things that can cause accidents. We also have roads made poor by the presence of repairs that are incomplete (holes waiting to be filled, partly filled with marl), complete but badly finished (thinly covered road patches, which may be uneven or not properly graded). We have roads with overgrown vegetation that make for poor sight lights and may also cause obstructions.

Many poor road users: From early in the life of the average Jamaica, we are taught certain habits that are not good for our safety on the roads. Let me list some of those that I know from when I was a boy and I still see. Remember that I’ve been around for about 60 years, and in that time many things about traffic have changed, such as faster vehicles, more vehicles, younger drivers, more paved roads, bigger roads that encourage speed, a tendency to want to do things more rapidly, which tends to make people rush more on the roads (both drivers and pedestrians), and many more road users (both drivers and pedestrians). These changes mean that many more problematic encounters (between vehicles and between vehicles and pedestrians) happen each day.

  • Children are taught to cross roads wherever they want, and to try to stop traffic by raising their hands. (In many other countries, this practice is used and works, but is used by adult crossing guards, eg, nearer schools, not children making their way.)
  • Motorists are not encouraged to give way to pedestrians. (In many countries, the pedestrian is given most rights when trying to cross roads, eg by laws that protect that right, or pedestrians are given a fair chance to avoid traffic, by not having to deal with it (eg, footbridges, tunnels), or by having ‘their turn’ to use the road (eg, with controlled crossing areas, whether these are simply marked (eg, Zebra crossings) or crossing areas at traffic lights.) (In Jamaica, we see the absurd situation of highways constructed by places much used by people, yet with no safe way to cross provided (look at Mandela Highway by Hydel Academy or by Jose Marti HS). These measures to give pedestrians a fair chance are most often found in urban areas (with their dense populations and many vehicles sharing space). In Jamaica, not giving way has a (risky) element of hostility to pedestrians, rather than a (safer) attitude that tries to accommodate pedestrians. In other words, drivers don’t tend to slow down when meeting passengers, thus raising the risk of accidents.
  • Drivers develop unwritten rules about priorities on the road. This may be seen by the common practice of tapping the horn to thank another driver (eg, for giving way). We also tend to allow other drivers into traffic, when it’s clear that they want passage. (Some countries teach such behaviour in certain settings, eg, my encouraging drivers to merge alternately when entering a highway from a lesser road.)
  • Drivers develop priorities that favour them rather than other road users. An example of this is that a typical Jamaican driver approaches an obstacle and takes the view that he who gets to it first has right of way. So, a driver who has to pass a parked car will tend to act as if he/she can proceed even though the obstacle is on his/her side of the road and proceeding means compromising an incoming driver who is not facing the obstacle (who is really the one who generally has the priority). You often see drivers racing to beat the obstacle, adding to the danger to the oncoming driver. The average Jamaican driver will even display his/her anger when their ‘obstacle avoidance’ causes a big risk to another road user, who dares to complain or show displeasure. (In most countries, the written rule is that those who have clear passage have right of way, and those obstructed should wait before moving into the free space.) Another feature of such behaviours is that in many countries those coming up hills have priority over those coming down hills. This tendency to favour him-/herself means that at places like junctions well-established rules such as ‘first-come-first-leave’ are not necessarily followed, and even with stop signs visible, drivers on ‘larger’ roads may assume they have priority over those coming from ‘lesser’ roads. When traffic lights aren’t working this practice is often clear to see, and may not even have the well-established notion of treating the non-working light as a stop sign, so drivers will race through junctions where lights aren’t working because they are on ‘the main’, with no consideration of the risks of doing that. Jamaicans’ tendency to favour themselves is not limited to drivers, and pedestrians will often act as if they have priorities in situations where this is really unlikely to be the case (e.g. indiscriminately crossing a road away from any marked crossing).
  • Familiarity with the official rules and laws of the road is not common. Part of this lack of familiarity comes from widespread illiteracy, and it cannot be assumed that the average road user can read and understand written instructions on roads. Although most countries have replaced written signs with signs showing images, Jamaicans still deal with many written signs with odd instructions like ‘Yield’. Pictorial signs are not always easy to interpret, however, and the general principle of warnings in triangles, may not be well-understood.
  • Defensive driving/road use is not common. Best examples of this are: (1) pedestrians walking behind parked vehicles (not in front of them, so that a driver could see them); (2) refusal to use horns as warning (that may be because we use horns as ‘friendly’ signals); not slowing down, but rather speeding up near hazards (this is seen in other countries); (3) indiscriminate crossing by pedestrians; (4) running red lights (though, frankly, it’s a practice much less prevalent in Jamaica than in the US, I think); (5) aggressive driving strategies (eg forcing way into traffic, ignoring restrictions). Car manufacturers havew helped with road safety by fitting cars with lights that come on automatically during daytime, but many Jamaicans may not understand this and try to ‘warn’ drivers that their lights are on, rather than realise that it is good to see the oncoming vehicle. (Some are locked in time to the days when draining car batteries through use of electrics was a bigger problem.) When we have a problem on the road (eg need to make a repair on the road), we don’t use things designed to warn and protect (eg reflective triangles) but will improvise (eg with sticks or rocks in the middle or the road to warn other road users 🙂 Watch a Jamaican repairing a vehicle on the highway and how he/she seems to have no regard for life and limb in where the vehicle is placed and where the repairer will operate. (Honestly, I saw a car being repaired in the outside lane of the North-South Highway, last weekend!) I also saw groups posing for pictures in the middle of the highway. 

These habits just raise the general level of risk on the roads.

Add to this the fact that a certain body of road users, namely taxi drivers and drivers of other public service vehicles tend to have road use habits that are often dangerous in the extreme, using speed and aggression on the road, as well as ignoring rules. We all know that taxis will just stop to pick up or stop off passengers. This is common worldwide, but is more hazardous in areas where road space is limited to single lanes, so that stopping blocks traffic flows, and if done suddenly increases chances of collisions, with the taxi or with its passengers (especially, if they just enter the road, not the sidewalk).

My general view is that Jamaicans need to be re-educated root-and-branch about road use. (I know efforts are in place to do some of this in schools, but we have a bigger stock of people who do not know good road use practices.) Ideally, we would make sure that every road user is properly trained and properly certified to operate a vehicle. (We know the many anecdotes about buying licences, and we see the bad results of that when accident details reveal such practices, as well as those that allow unworthy vehicles on the road.) It’s a big challenge.

I’ve not mentioned the other problems created on roads by new technology (new ways to listen to music or watch images) and how that creates distractions for drivers and pedestrians. I’m not mentioning risks created by substance abuse that impairs

I’ve not mentioned the other problems created on roads by new technology (new ways to listen to music or watch images or communicate with each other) and how that creates distractions for drivers and pedestrians. I’m not mentioning risks created by substance abuse that impairs the ability to assess risks properly, whether taken by drivers or pedestrians.

Our general approach to road use is lax, and it’s made easier to keep that stance because our law enforcers are well-known for being zealous about certain misuse rather than all misuse. So, we will see efforts to check drivers’ credentials (important, because we know that many drive illegally and without insurance), but hardly any effort to deal with motorcycle riders who are without helmets or drivers and passengers who are not using seat belts. Some of this lax policing is about resources, but much is about attitude. Cameras or closed-circuit television may provide useful deterrence, but without a re-education, it seems that the problem is being attacked from the wrong end.

National disservice

I’ve wondered aloud before about how surprising it is that Jamaica hasn’t descended into social turmoil. Over the past few months, as stories have swirled about a wave of killings and abuse, on the island, I wondered again about what it would take for Jamaicans to do more than talk about their national problems, as opposed to doing something about them. Each time I think about this seeming passivity, the only logical conclusion I reach is that it’s hard to fight against yourself. By that, I mean that so many Jamaicans are implicated personally and collectively in the misdeeds we observe that they are blocked by that from acting against them. If we talk about six degrees of separation in relationships with people, my suspicion in Jamaica (as with much of the Caribbean) is that it’s more likely to be one or two degrees, at most. We joke about being each other’s cousins, but when it comes to dealing with bad stuff that’s too close for comfort. That awkward closeness gets worse if the ‘related’ person is ‘big’, i.e. important or in some sense well-connected. Remember that this cuts across lines of legality, so good connections mean power to harm as well as power to help.

So, fixing economic woes is hard because a large part demands that we dispense with people and habits we hold dear, whether inefficient public servants, or the bevy of informal workers and vendors on whom so many of us now depend. 

Fixing social woes is hard because it means dismissing the things we’ve cherished that are harmful, like beating children, who grow up to become beating adults, who beat children, who grow up…. It also means addressing attitudes towards sex, and actions, especially concerning minors, that we say are wrong but to which we often turn a blind eye. Then, we have rapes and assault that police officers brush aside, or parents blame on the victims, or communities protect the offender because he (usually a man) is ‘prominent’ or a ‘good citizen’, some other convenient acceptance. 

We accept illegality when it benefits us. Yet, we wonder why crime is rampant. 

I know that Jamaicans are afraid of acting against people, as we see that ‘fear’ displayed largely in our justice system. You are more likely to find a lenient sentence being given for a crime than a harsh sentence. It’s generally accepted, therefore, that our so-called ‘justice system’ is more about doling out injustice–in terms of sentences that do not seem to fit the crimes. (I’m not going to get into whether harsh sentences matter, but the general perception is that people like to see bad deeds treated as if they’re really bad, and minor things as if they are really minor.) So, it’s a boo-hiss for the justices who want to deal harshly with a mango stealer, but seem to be uncontrollably mushy if the thief does something like steal a lot of money or high-value goods. Written into this seeming disparity is a certain classism, that means that ‘poor’ gets shafted while ‘rich’ get sweet stroking. If I have misread the various cases reported in the papers, please correct me.

We see it also in the persistent hand-wringing of politicians every time some embarrassing piece of information gets out. Has anyone kept track of the many reviews that must be going on to address the spate of ‘scandals’ coming from the political world? What I’ve noted is the absence of many clear reports and action plans to deal with these instances. Worse still, when statutory bodies are charged with assessing the work of government, their reports (often damning) tend to find their way into the filing cabinet that gets emptied by the janitor. I love the Auditor General’s reports but shouldn’t we have a much better civil service by now? 

Although I cannot be everywhere at the same time, I look and read about incidents, and what seems to happen often is that Jamaicans like to be observers. The world is not filled with brave people, willing to die for an unknown cause, or just stand up against the voices of opposition. To oppose others one needs strong convictions. I’m not sure that this is part of the national make-up.

Now, in the same breath, some people call on Jamaicans to act–as with the horrible stabbing death of a Jamaica College student–but, gladly stand by. We are urged to use numbers against the few and overcome them that way. But, we generally see people happier to stand and watch or better still move past the incident, leaving others to act. 

An RJR producer posted a video on Twitter a few days ago of a traffic incident. Red light running led to a knife-wielding altercation. What struck me was how almost everyone nearby did nothing but watch. Watch for yourself https://twitter.com/giovannirdennis/status/812343144385802240 

Scene of an accident turning violent (Courtesy: Giovanni Dennis.)

I’m not making any value judgement, merely noting that doing nothing seems quite normal.

Now, we can ask how we got here. I’m not sure people were ever much different but in the face of a worsening situation that inaction is glaring. 

Some say that having more armed citizens is one way to deal with the waves of violent crimes. I’m afraid of that option. I’m not sure every ordinary citizen can well judge each incident and then act sensibly with a firearm.

Of course, the position we’re in is a bad reflection on those who are supposed to be crime fighters. But what can society do when those with roles abrogate them? 

Plastic recycling in Jamaica: an incomplete story

This summer, our National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) started a pilot project to recycle plastic bottles in certain communities in Kingston and St. Catherine parishes, covering approximately 2,000 households, with some 10,000 people. It was anticipated that the equivalent of 347 tonnes of solid waste or 3.8 million plastic bottles would be collected. We were informed that 1.2 million tonnes of solid waste is generated in Jamaica annually, 75 per cent of which ends up at the country’s disposal sites; a “miniscule” portion of the remaining 25 per cent is recycled by small entities. One of those entities is the Jamaican Environment Trust (JET ) who offer recycling drop off at their offices. The bulk of the remaining solid waste ends up all over the place, as the video shows on a rainy day, as one of the water channels coming off the mountains winds its way down to the sea.

Recycling ‘depot’, Trelawny

The pile of plastic bottles in the shadow of the trees is the kind of ‘recycling depot’ I’ve seen at a few places in the country areas of Jamaica, when I drive around.

Among the other small entities that recycles are outfits such as that below, off Shortwood Road, St. Andrew, which has been a bottle depot for all the time I’ve been back in Jamaica.

In the big picture for Jamaica, we know that sites such as these are really minimal, indeed, but they do indicate willingess to do something other than let garbage, such as reusable bottles just fly around.

I’ve seen several men riding on bicycles in the corporate area with large sacks of plastic bottles. We know that a lot of reusage occurs because we can see the items ‘packaged’ by informal traders, whether it’s things like honey or cooking oil, where plastic bottles may have a better life than glass bottles.

Recycling ‘depot’, St. Andrew

Anyway, I’m curious to know how the project is going (it’s now three months in), and have asked NSWMA and their Chairman if they could offer an update. Let’s see what response comes back.

Can Jamaica stop being a ‘pothole’ (patch over problems) society? Some initial thoughts

From where I sit, Jamaica is a true ‘pothole’ society: it seems to rarely fix underlying problems, which then soon resurface after attempts at patching over them. It’s a classic form of failure that needs deep analysis on many levels because it requires a high degree of compliance from all levels of society. There’s little point our complaining about the consequences of this phenomenon, because we have been major contributors in its creation and duration. I’m not going to try to much analysis, yet. I first want to make sure that I have seen and understood the many examples of the ‘potholing’.

In thinking about the analogy, it’s helpful to see what a severe hole in the road can do. We got that clearly just a week ago, when a part of a major traffic route collapsed, with sewer mains damage. It caused havoc for the travelling public, as the extensive video below shows: 

What causes the ‘potholes’ may differ, but the consequences are a series of clear costs to those who have deal with them, and costs passed on to others, as a result. It’s a series of ripples. With the problems on Constant Spring Road forcing traffic to find alternative routes, much of the central area of the capital suffered heavier flows and traffic jams. People did not know the best alternatives, so guessed and changed trying to find the best ad hoc solution.

So, too, with the pothole society: people develop coping mechanisms. The picture below shows a familiar sight. Damaged road awaiting repair, and some material ready, in place. A few days later, a crew may/will come to lay the marl, beat it down, then place a layer of tarmac over the repair. Inevitably, however, after a series of heavy rains (and during hurricane season, as now, that can be in a day), the damage resurfaces. The process restarts…

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Pothole awaiting marl treatment: Papine to Irish Town Road, St. Andrew

What is behind this seemingly short-sighted approach? Well, politics, for one. Simple economics, for another. Ineptitude and ignorance? Maybe, but less likely.

Politics plays out in several ways: getting resources; being seen to ‘tackle’ problems; distributing contracts/work/improvement.

Economics features in its way. Beneficiaries, obviously, are better off–money in hands and pockets to spend will trickle around and give a ‘better’ living for a while. Activities are helped by being able to resume or expand now that the road has been repaired; customers can be satisfied.

The road repair analogy is the bigger society on display. Politicians get more ‘bang for their buck’ as elected representatives if they can be seen as ‘fixers’; it’s almost like having permanent adverts displaying about the ‘good’ that is being done. Many MPs are judged by their ‘doing’ and gladly take credit for work done by other agents. But, it also means that the MPs’ livelihood is tied to never fixing the problem completely. Sadly, this focus on ‘fixing’ ‘potholes’ means that little regard is given to the fact that the road may acutally have fundamental problems that mean it must worsen with use.

Look at the country more widely. Repainting a rusty bridge gives it a good gloss 🙂 but it may still be structurally unsound and soon due to fall. Giving people ‘jobs’ like bushing and painting lines let’s them have some cash in their pockets, but the bushes grow back and the lines get worn out. The worker, often with few attributes to compete and hold down a range of jobs, depends on such ‘make good’ work. He or she would be better off if better trained or educated. Instead, handouts have to be the legal way to get paid. The illegal options are clear.

More broadly, still, we see the ‘potholing’ in that statistic the debt/GDP ratio. This is the epitome of spending on fixes and doing little to change or build a solidly underpinned economy. Borrowed money has been badly invested (taking account of the fact that some of the funds never went to purposes, at all, but to people who did nothing in return). In other words, individuals have gained at the expense of the wider society. One need not know the names of those individuals, one can deduce a good number of them through some simple ‘lifestyle’ analysis.

I’ve often talked about ‘rent-seeking’ behaviour, and the ‘potholing’ in the general economy is seeing it at work.

But, the ‘potholes’ exist in many sectors and are shown by the emergence of problems that have existed and been known for years, but never dealt with. At its worst, the ‘managers’ in those settings (public and private sector) have lied, denied, covered up and blamed others for these failings. In a simple term, it’s about lack of compliance and enforcement.

We have seen them recently in the health sector (shoddy hygiene, poor recording of incidents, lack of openness about system failures). We have had incidents, termed ‘dead babies’ scandals, about high incidence of premature infant deaths. But, more widely, we have had the results of unflattering reports into the regional health authorities.

We have seen them in the building sector (when a building collapses the trail of neglect becomes clear, very quickly; think about Royalton Hotel, Negril). The general response is to launch a probe, form a committee, review. The subsequent action?

We have seen them in the process of creating and executing major projects. The botched affair with Krauck and Anchor must be a business degree case study.

We see it in the water sector: infrastructural and distrubutional weaknesses that remain unaddressed but become the cause of concern with each regular drought.

In electricity, the theft of power, often aided and abetted by politicians.

In land and agriculture, the tolerance of squatting and praedial larceny, rather than creating and upholding an orderly system of tenure, or other regulations that impede the selling of stolen produce.

In the environment, where we all live with the consequences of ineffictive waste management couple with poor waste management practices by citizens, both of which help create a lucrative business in ‘clearing up after’, while we live in constant near-squalor in many places. Scenes like this garbage-filled Kingston gully are not new, or intractable, and their consequences are clear and regular.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-10-40-54-am

That’s an extensive array, and it’s not complete.

But, how does one break the cycle of something that benefits so many people?

Albert Darnell Anderson

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