In the Space of 48 Hours

In the space of 48 hours, within the last month, Hardley Lewin and Derick Latibeaudiere were relieved of their duties as Police Commissioner and Governor of the Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) respectively even if not in that order. Actually, we were told that Lewin had resigned his position as head honcho of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) “with immediate effect” which meant at the next Friday. Latibeaudiere, we were told, was booted primarily because of the exorbitant salary and perks that he enjoyed – more than that enjoyed by Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve in the US and who has an even tougher job than his Jamaican counterpart.

The point in these high-profile firings, and let’s be honest for that’s what they are, is not so much if they were the right things to do as it is an indictment of the sad state of affairs in Jamaica – a state of affairs that only serves to highlight the nonsense that, for too long, has masqueraded as good governance.

No one in their right mind is buying into the government’s reasoning that Hardley Lewin’s ‘resignation’ was just that and that Derick Latibeaudiere’s firing was solely because of his exorbitant salary and perks. It’s the same way folks are no longer buying into the notion of Bruce Golding as a ‘transformational leader’ as, by his actions thus far, he has belied that notion.

Bruce Golding and his administration seemingly have no idea what it is they’re doing in terms of the economy and in terms of governance, period. In a sense, they are no different from the previous People’s National Party (PNP) administration and between both of them they should be case studies in any university on how not to govern any society.

It’s somewhat sad that between both parties in these last 20 years especially, Jamaica seems on its way to becoming a failed state, judging by what some folks have to say of the current state of affairs. You have wanton and rampant crime and corruption and unless they are of a certain magnitude, there just seems to be a blasé attitude towards it.

We know that the connections between the major political parties and criminals go back to the 1970s but now the connections are so tight that it’s hard for any police commissioner to head the JCF and for the Force to do a successful job of crime-fighting. This, even after time and again and in poll after poll, crime is identified as the number one social problem that should be effectively addressed.

Just as a body whose immune system is compromised will find it hard to ward off certain diseases and infections, a police force infested with criminals and corrupt folks will find it difficult to be an effective deterrent to crime. Likewise, it’s not act of bravado/courage but cowardice, if it’s not too much of a problem extraditing criminals to face American justice when they are in your opponent’s stronghold district but it is when he’s in your party’s stronghold. It’s the same way your national security minister will not be effective in doing his job if his/her party has affiliations with the very criminals the security forces are tasked with ridding society of.

What to do is not rocket science or nuclear physics. You sever the connections with the criminals. You fight corruption. With both you adopt a zero-tolerance approach and you go after the small fry and work your way up to the big fish. It’s not enough to say you’re giving the JCF the tools to fight crime if you’re not providing any support to the commissioner and/or if there is no strategy in place to attack crime and it practitioners.

There is no reason Jamaica should be on a pace to experience more than 1,600 murders this year while New York City, with three times Jamaica’s population, will likely experience only 40 per cent as many. There is something very wrong with this picture.

As to Mr. Latibeaudiere’s firing, it’s now known that he and Audley Shaw, the Finance Minister, did not see eye to eye as to what to do about the economy and in that regard it’s nothing new. Ronald Reagan and his Treasury Secretary, back in the day, supposedly did not always see eye to eye with Paul Volcker when the latter was the Federal Reserve Chairman. The two President Bushes in the US and their folks did not always see eye to eye with Alan Greenspan when the latter was Fed Chairman.

Still, it wasn’t Mr. Latibeaudiere who was downplaying the effects the global recession would have on Jamaica and who was theorizing that the economic meltdown in the US could actually be beneficial to Jamaica. The fact that a salary dispute is offered as the reason to let the BoJ Governor go is most insulting even when it’s not surprising. It’s not surprising because insulting the intelligence of Jamaicans is an art form that both political parties have become expert at.

How else does one rail against the salary of the BoJ Governor and not at your Tourism Minister spending $8.5 million to refurbish his office including $77K for a chair so his backside can have something cushy to sit in? Why don’t we hear any railing against the almost $50 or $60 million his Transport Minister spent fixing up his house so that he doesn’t “live in squalor”? How is it okay to justify paying a consultant $2 million monthly to advise you how to divest sugar industry assets but then turn around and tell government employees you can’t find the money to pay them their promised raises? The problem isn’t that there may be no money for promised raises as much as it’s the hypocrisy and thus the insulting of the national intelligence.

What we need is not BS (as in bulls) from the government but for the government to BS (i.e. Be Straight) with us. Yes, we need bold, decisive and true leadership and not the blathering fools and dithering dolts we have today and the corrupt knuckleheads we’ve had in the past.

Yes, we don’t need folks to tell us that it’s best to let private enterprise own the means of production while the government sets the ground rules by which they operate. Yes, we don’t need for the government to be running an airline that has been a drain on the national purse since its inception.

Yes, we need a government and leaders who will demand that we don’t spend donkey years debating, discussing and dissecting needed legislation that can help make for a better society. Yes, the public sector workforce is too big and needs to be pared and we should not need the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to tell us this.

The cabinet is too big, there are too many MPs/electoral divisions and too many parish council divisions. You cut the number of parish council seats by two-thirds and go to a county council municipal system. You cut the number of electoral constituencies to 45 instead of increasing it to the proposed 65 and reduce the size of the cabinet and the number of government agencies and there’ll be savings to be realized.

As mentioned earlier, some folks are starting to speculate and question whether Jamaica is a failed or a failing state. Whatever/however one feels about Jamaica these days, it’s fair to say it’s not in as healthy a state as it could and should be and there’s enough blame to go around.

Lebanon of the 1970s and 80s was a failed state. Somalia today is a failed state and Zimbabwe was fast on its way to being a failed state. In the Caribbean, the closest we’ve come to a failed state has been Haiti. In a bit of irony, both Haiti and Zimbabwe fought for their independence and since both gained it their folks today are no better off.

Today, in Jamaica, we have a PNP opposition and a Jamaica Labour Party government that between them seemingly don’t know how to screw in a light bulb to not only shine a light on our problems but to show a possible way out of the predicament the country finds itself in. No matter how you look at it, this is a really sad state of affairs.In teh Space of 48 Hours

     

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