Commentary

#LetsThink: Jamaica — land we love? Rise like Dubai or amass debt like Greece

Jamaica Rise Like Dubai
Written by Mikhail Palmer

A country in economic deficit; a people without hope; is ignorance really bliss?

First, let me start by saying that in no way do I believe that I am an economist, and even more so — my ideas, my ideals are not normally widely accepted, and I can live with that, but in reality, at times we must make the hard choices in order to positively affect a productive future. Additionally, my political views are my own, and essentially, I criticize all our leaders.

Less than 20 years ago, Dubai was a known, yet relatively unknown country along the Persian Gulf. Having survived multiple economic hardships, the country’s leadership turned to building a nation that they could be proud of. Turn the dial 20 years, and today, Dubai is a beautiful country, know for its extravagance, and more so where the wealthy and famous party and trade — Dubai has turned the economic compass. If one thing can be learnt from Dubai, it’s what is to be gained by building a nation.

On the other side of the coin, there is the beautiful country of Greece, having relied on tourism as it’s primary source of income, 20 years ago, Greece was not wealthy, but Greece was definitely not impoverished, as it is today.

Now, while I am no economist, looking at these two nations, where does Jamaica stand?

Jamaica is at a crossroads, we have the ability to either rise like that of Dubai, or continue to amass debt through loans, like Greece.

What is holding Jamaica back from becoming a nation to be proud of? I mean, yes, we do have brilliant individuals, who will go down in the annals of history, ideally from Bob Marley, and his talented sons, to our very own 100m Gold Medalist, the Most Honorable Usain Bolt, not to forget Warren Weir, Veronica Stewart; among others — but what can we be proud of as a nation? What significant achievements that matter to the world’s intellectuals, can we be proud of?

A country with brilliant ripe minds, suffering from insufficient government funding to gain an adequate education, piled onto a growing margin of unemployment and poverty?
In school we are often taught that a good education is key; that “we can achieve anything if we believe” — but where are we in our development? While the rest of the world is teeming with technological advancements such as solar powered self-driving cars and autonomous machinery, we sit idle; While the rest of the world has wide access to solar power, we lag behind, still committing to imported petroleum and our backward ways of thought.
Is it that we lack the brilliant and ambitious minds? Or the resources? Or more-so, do we lack the knowledge?

Our economic growth is stifled by our nation’s leaders, and even more so, it is stifled by our brothers and sisters.

The things that make us innately ‘Jamaican’ are the things that are our downfall. We need to make a concerted effort to change the things that are associated with being Jamaican into more positive ones- as being a Jamaican is in no way bad, but the main things associated with the nationality are. We have only a few individuals, that are determined to seek a great perhaps. As a nation — we do not cultivate free thinking; we do not cultivate thinking in the general sense. Jamaica is predominantly an “Old Time Christian, homophobic society” that breeds repetitiveness and arrogance coupled with intellectual ignorance. We believe in traditions, which isn’t bad. We believe in our beliefs, which is great. We believe in the ideal household Union between man and wife, which is not good, but essentially how we are.

Our traditions, are no longer traditional but more along the lines of social apathy — children speak freely, yet disrespectfully; music is no longer fun with a hint of sexual passion — it is sexually explicit with a hint of humor. With the widest span of Churches per square kilometer, we lack true Christian beliefs. Education is now optional; because my generation, along with the future generation believes in a dream that artistry is a profession that will make them wealthy. Coupled with our political illiteracy, do we expect a future that we can be proud of?

To make Jamaica great, we must change the minds of every Jamaican. We must empower, educate and create opportunity.

To put things into perspective, recently, the news was buzzing with nationals demanding that Jamaicans do not import from Trinidad, one of our neighboring relatives. For years tensions have been rising between our brothers and us. We have grown to simply believe that Jamaicans are mistreated and hated by Trinidadians — which I personally do not have any real view.

While many won’t agree with me, I believe that it is not relevant, or rather effective to limit our import of Trinidadian products, when there is something to be learnt from Trinidad. They did something that Jamaica did not — while they do have oil reserves and export oil in large quantities, they also manufacture a wide range of products; instead of closing all their manufacturing factories, they developed them, so now they are arguably the Caribbean’s wealthiest country. They invest in their country’s infrastructure. Regulating roadways and funding their global reserves, thus increasing their dollar value and in turn creating a loving sense or patriotism. This is what Jamaica needs.

From an economic perspective, instead of investing money into a force which polices communities to stop crime, invest into preventative methods which educate. Instead of having convicted criminals sit in prison cells, eating away at our tax dollars, teach them skills — have them practice construction, electrical wiring, plumbing; using tax payers money to build proper infrastructure while giving convicts a subsidies salary while they work. Instead of hosting public events like our annual Grand Gala, invest that money into job creation, and education.

In my opinion, criminals are criminals for the same reasons babies cry; they have no other choice provided but to react to the stimuli around them. By employing criminals; creating companies for reformed criminals our crime rate would drastically decrease, as people commit crimes rarely for fun, but more for survival.

If we could pay an inmate, serving 15 years in prison a fraction of what we pay construction workers it could increase the spending in our country and in turn increase the amount GDP and GNP of our country, in turn giving our country’s leaders a wider tax income, allowing investment into an actual free education structure.

Example, if a construction worker is commissioned $800 p/hr, we employ inmates at half of that, being $400 p/hr (the other half can be used to commission the officers who oversee the work). Calculating that the prisoner’s sentence is 15 years, having that person work 40hrs a week, the inmate earns a total of $11,520,000 adjusting at 28% for taxes, that’s $11,197,440 in that 15 years.; $746,496 per annum; or $62,280 per month. Now that’s a decent amount of money made while serving time. Now when that inmate is released from prison, he has a skill, and is able to live a dream; buying a house. The flip side to this is that, for every 300 inmates that work for 5 years, in taxes the government collects $322,560,000. While our infrastructure is increased — with a steady inflow of money from the $322M we could generate jobs via creation manufacturing plants; power plants; building offshore call centers; building hospitals in each parish; medical treatment centers; foreign trade and investment — and this is simply all from employing inmates; this does not include taxes from services and goods sold, nor does it include the other taxes received from the new jobs that are created.

We should invest in technology. Do you know that not many Jamaicans understand the difference between a CPU, GPU and APU? or simply the different architecture an Operating System uses. This needs to change if we are to survive this new era.

It’s hard to find a good mechanic, or even worse a good technician who can actually fix a problem and not create one. The world has entered the technological phase years ago, where are we in comparison? In a world where every job involves interacting with technology, a world where the Internet of Things is becoming more and more vast, how can we move forward with a people that do not know the basics? And I don’t mean using Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, I mean, getting into a computer; booting an ISO file onto a Solid State Drive; using paths to locate files — knowing how and why things work.

From a social perspective, instead of discrimination, instead of socio-economic gaps that we create — we should aim towards teaching values, implementing new ideas and more so create a free speech platform, where we can voice ourselves. We should outdo the American Dream, with the Jamaican Paradise. We should teach Jamaican History as a mandatory subject, giving praise to our heroes and our leaders.

From a political and legal perspective, we should empower the public. Ministers can be overthrown; Ministers can be impeached; Ministers are not all powerful and without harm. The Government’s job is for the people, if the people need a Minister to step out of power, legally that Minister should be obligated to listen- the minister is the slave of the people. While legally, every Jamaican should invest in knowing, and having a lawyer. The legal profession is dying due to over saturation, but with a simply push in our economy, life can flow.

From an educational perspective. We lack any educational structure and more so educational guidance. I mean, yes, I know what I want to do. I am in my early 20s, I code in six (6) different scripting languages; I analyze large amounts of data, and predicting logical outputs; I design multiple webpages with layered payment APIs; I can do every skill within the field that I chose as a career. Did I learn any of these skills in High School? No. Did I even take a single Computing class? No. All of these are self thought. I believe that we try to emulate the educational structure in other countries to make us feel as if we have achieved something.

If the two major world qualifications (SATs and GCSE O/A Levels) for Tertiary Education are not thought widely in the country, how can we mold the future leaders of tomorrow?

Why do we rely on an educational body that forces us to complete another two years of school, to simply enter a University? In my personal opinion, Jamaica should do away with CSEC and CAPE — we should not mold our children to become citizens of Jamaica, or the Caribbean; we should mold our children to become citizens of the world. We should teach our children the basis of GCSE O-Levels; the British equivalent* to CSEC, but a more strategic approach to molding wide thought and learning.

I sometimes feel completely alone, because how can I discuss with someone the Google ATAP creations, or why the sudden decrease in Apple Stock occurred for the first time in ages, when all my peers think about is partying and baseless music?

We need to sacrifice to grow. Our ancestors faced slavery as their biggest hurdle, now we face our own selves as our hurdle — will we continue to be oppressed, or rise above?

About the author

Mikhail Palmer