Thursday, 30 July 2015

Press Fails to Demystify Economic Issues

With the issues of Jamaica's economy and fiscal management - or lack of - dependent on your political view, reaching a new level of discourse as the political factions and schools of economics whip out technical jargon and flash their superior number crunching abilities concerning all things budget, debt, revenue, exchange rate, GDP(gross domestic product), capital market, multinationals and overall policy. There is a forgotten majority that continues to  be removed from the discussion either from ignorance or apathy in a process that doesn't appreciate their layman opinions.

With an election imminent there is renewed energy and competition in the politics as parties and candidates try to one-up the other on economic issues that remain high on the Jamaican agenda, many not 'qualified' to lead the conversation but while in campaign mode they won't necessarily stick to facts further misleading those removed from the discourse. 

And to straighten out the facts and give solid opinions we turn to the academics and practitioners who are given open mics in the press and mainstream news media. But too often the facts are numbers, that become complicated calculations, that get tossed around loosely as simple mathematics in nation that is trying to curb a cultural 'hard hardheadedness' to math. The academic circle also sees its fair share of politics as different schools of economic thought collide for supremacy and personalities aim top their counterparts.

Who is actually aiming to demystify the issues?

Connect The Dollars

For the layperson, the economy is what he or she experiences including (un)employment, income, food prices, gas prices, utility bills, mortgage/rent  and all the other direct factors that will affect a person's quality of life. 

With politicians too busy trying to tilt the situation either way and the academics unable to convey simpler messages. We are then expecting our middle men in public discourse - the free press- that connects us the citizenry to the issues and vice versa to breakdown the arguments, facts and implications and deliver a material that allows everyone who wants to understand to connect the dollars back to their own lives and pockets.

If the news outlets and talk shows continue to regurgitate the discussions being had at the highest levels of leadership in the same language and understanding, a large percentage of Jamaicans will never become interested or if they are interested will never comprehend the true dollars and sense of the economy.

We don't just need a new politics but a new voter who understands the issues or a voter who craves understanding as to make the best decision at the ballots.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Dead Democracy: From The Ballot to The Streets

"A stable democracy" is often how those in leadership positions describe the current health of our politics and democracy, with no major shock waves in our system of governance over the last 3 decades since the ideological rift that formed during the years of Micheal Manley's lean towards democratic socialism clashing with Seaga's capitalist sentiments that received further push from outside forces. After this period, the word ideology became invalid and political activist reduced to squabble between grassroots supporters defending their respective parties, as the economy sank - the tight fiscal space narrowed our vision with only the  IMF and other global creditors in our sight.

As a millennial belonging to the 90's and having experience the birth and and super expansion of the Information age, there has been no substantial period for Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) as to compare governance records against the People's National Party's tenure. Hence the search for comparisons in this modern age would lead us youth, regionally and internationally to get an understanding of the level of governance that we should be expecting and encouraging through our public participation.

With the current situation in mind, I would like to suggest to will thinking Jamaicans that as for our democracy our vitals are flat lining  and for all intensive purposes we are a dead democracy.Lifeless from the ceremonial zombie-like walk to the ballots to fulfill our 'rights' to the bustling streets filled not with voices of protesters with a cause but with hustlers just trying to make a living without such concern for the process that controls how taxes are spent or the minimum your to be paid for a days work.

The Ballot 

We have been dead at the ballot boxes from the time our political parities decided to encourage 'area leader' mentality  that saw the creation of garrisons and safe seats that are manned by the die-hearts who swear upon their ancestors grave their bloods are either green or orange not red like our national heroes, 2 are accredited founder of these political parties. Even after the creation of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) and Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) to ensure free and fare elections in all constituencies, the sanctity of votes are still being corrupted with the buying and selling of votes.

For those not considered die-hearts of any kind, they often make voting into a symbolic gesture to our ancestors who fought for suffrage, with little thought given to issues, because elections in Jamaica are about party and personalities not issues. Plaster a face on a sign with a slogan and you have yourself a campaign, although you may speak on topics - who is really listening? Not the die-hearts they are only concerned about their party winning, half the independent voters are tuned out until election day and the other half is the minority who decided to vote on issues but their numbers wont affect the outcome much - then there are those who don't not to vote because of apathy.

I can only compare our 5 year general election cycle to life support and with sprinklings of local government elections in between as minor brain activity. In the 2007, we showed a miraculous  sign of recovery that had a generous turnout including the youth that drastically dwindled in 2009 when Holness in tried to tap into the youth-phoria after Golding's quick departure under circumstances that left a immeasurable trust deficit.

We have lost the essence of being a voting and being voters.

The Street

The current Simpson-Miller led administration has demonstrated that we have slipped into collective coma as we shun our civil duty to keep our government accountable and transparent. There has been no end to the controversies  and contradictions that only inspired limited outcry hence got limited results from the Azan affair, NHT saga, Riverton fire mess and the Ms Haughton's unpunished nepotism. But the administration biggest mockery of our Westminster system was allowing a Cabinet Minister to pursue business with entities that cabinet itself decided not to do business with.

Yet, we 'articulate minority' have not found these blunders, so offensive to our sense of judgement that we would alight the streets with our concerns, discontent and disapproval. Are the silent streets a picture of deeper fear? A fear of being relinquished to doldrums of social mobility, where those without the proper surname, professions and nod of approval are placed for speaking out of turn prevented from moving upward - the creation of a classicist society.


This perception also consumes our universities and especially civil society groupings, many see these groups as only caring for those who pay their dues or make considerable donations. This idea that civil society, is only for the sophisticated  upper echelons of Jamaican society who can speaking the queens english when making representation is troublesome in a context such as Jamaica - where those who are most oppress belong to a lower socio-economic standing with perfect patios and sub standard english and education.

These issues reinforce in the minds of poor Jamaicans  that the system is too complicated for them to speak beyond localized matters such as bad roads and lack of water, they dare not venture into governance and constitutional reform out of ignorance - this vacuum leaves them powerless thus they place their entire trust in the political leadership to govern themselves and set their own standards.

The masses are out their waiting to galvanize around a single source of either strength, sacrifice or shock whether they know it or not. Who will inject the well needed adrenaline to get our civil blood pumping again?

Our Time: Calling for a Referendum and the Jamaican Democracy

It was not long ago that the Scottish independence referendum  was in the spotlight earlier this year with the populace deciding to stay with the United Kingdom, and we as Jamaicans asked ourselves, 'why not us?'

we witnessed the Irish allowing same-sex marriage through a referendum that surprised many who were accustomed to the conservative nature of the predominately catholic nation, again Jamaicans found reason to call for a referendum on the buggery law as the issue took center stage. 

Then we recently observed the Greek people refusing austerity, in a momentous referendum that may have lasting repercussions for the world economy, specifically the European Union and Euro-zone economic bloc with many other euro-zone members nations contemplating their future in the union with Britain and Spain planning in the near future to bring the "yes or no" question to their respected electorate in referendums. 

There has been a increase in calls for a grand referendum that will bring questions to the people that the 63 in parliament do not dare decide for 2.8 million people; issues of concerning culture in the buggery law, concerning the economy in whether or not we bare the chain of austerity, even democracy in becoming a republic and many other issues.

But this Jamaican grand referendum has been denied by most of our elitist including politicians on a most disturbing basis beyond the tribal nature of our politics but rather they go farther to insult the intelligence of the populace; indicating that the people are not 'smart' enough to make such important decision independently and would just be a mere political exercise.  

There is no willingness to defend our 'ordinary Jamaicans' against this line of reasoning, nothing from civil society groups, hence our political leaders will never be committed to a referendum and general constitutional reform because they believe the Jamaican people are not smart enough to understand. 

Certainly the education of the electorate on critical matters cannot be left up to the whim of politicians, therefore we need coordinated effort in public/private spaces to elevate the standard of what it means to be a voter or potential voter, leading to better public participation and overall better governance.