'Rain a fall but the dutty tough' – Jamaica Observer

Jamaica continues to be a country plagued by many bittersweet ironies.
For example, though Jamaica got its name from the Arawak word Xaymaca, which means “land of wood and water”, there is hardly a time when thousands of citizens are not adversely affected by the lack of water in their pipes. And even now that we are experiencing increased rainfall, the persistent water problem will remain unresolved for the most part.
In the meantime, when one listens to the various national budget debate presentations, inclusive of those by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke as well as Cabinet ministers and other government operatives, one would think that everything is coming up roses. Indeed, the buzzword being parroted by this Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration continues to be “prosperity”, which for many elicits a great deal of expletives and derision because the potent question being asked is: Where is the beef?
So yes, the island’s tourism industry is enjoying a bumper season, garnering billions of dollars as hundreds of visitors are coming to our shores; more people are being employed, according to official statistical data; and spin doctors, including Information Minister Robert Morgan and Police Commissioner Major Antony Anderson, crow about a decline in murders and other acts of criminality which seems to give the miscreants the clue to up the ante. Just look at the parish of St James, which for years has been dubbed the murder capital of Jamaica, in recent days there has been a marked spike in homicides, notwithstanding states of public emergency, zones of special operations, and curfews. Ironically, one killing took place just a few metres away from a police station!
Then there is the news that Jamaica is among the world’s most miserable countries, ranked 55th, economically speaking, according to Hanke’s 22 Misery Index, which is the sum of the year-end unemployment (multiplied by two), inflation, and bank lending rates, minus the annual percentage change in real gross domestic product per capita. Recently, too, there has been yet another travel advisory warning American tourists to avoid coming to Jamaica, or if they do, they should be very careful. Thankfully, tourism is still booming.
Meanwhile, many young Jamaicans are spending large sums of money while risking their very lives to migrate to the United States, which is seen as the land of opportunity, through illegal means. One young man died while attempting to reach the Mexico/USA border.
Am I a prophet of doom or a realist? No doubt, some readers will accuse me of being the former, especially those who are supportive of the ruling JLP, but I am confident, on the other hand, that many well-thinking citizens will remove the rose-tinted glasses — or is it green? — and call a spade a spade. Yes, “rain a fall but the dutty tough”! The bottom line is that all concerned, patriotic Jamaicans must begin to do a serious reality check because “it sipple out deh”.
Of course, one of the downsides to this ironic situation (to which I alluded in a previous article in this newspaper) is the fact that numerous citizens are turned off from the electoral process and are not bothering to get enumerated. In this vein, an arch supporter of the Holness Administration, in a conversation with me, bemoaned the fact that there has not been much activity, in terms of people turning up to be enumerated. There is also a growing concern that the national census project may well turn out to be an exercise in futility.
This unfolding scenario reminds me of Charles Dickens’ renowned novel A Tale of Two Cities — yes, there is a tale of two Jamaicas. He writes, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” This conundrum has been further exacerbated by the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP), which has been having difficulty deciding whether it is fish or fowl, figuratively speaking.
The recent public sector salary saga, whereby parliamentarians and councillors have been gifted with relatively exorbitant increases in emoluments, points to a confused political organisation which needs to get its act together if it wishes to be taken seriously by an already sceptical and turned-off electorate. Quite frankly, it dropped the ball by sending mixed signals to the Jamaican populace, even as the Holness Administration fumbled and obfuscated on this critical issue of accountability, fairness, compassion, and transparency.
The tragedy is that, as more and more fed-up Jamaicans are divorcing themselves from the political leadership, which seems to be living in a bubble far from the madding crowd, the quest towards republican status may well become an elusive dream, or worse, an emerging nightmare. Prime Minister Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding must “come down from you pomps and pride” and relate in a meaningful way to the Jamaican people, bereft of sophistry, guile, and political one-upmanship. The Jamaican people deserve leadership that is caring, visionary, and pragmatic. Enough of the “bag o’mouth”. They want action.
In this context, yet another disgraceful and vexing situation is emerging because, as the well-needed showers of rain inundate the island, the perennially poor road network is once again disintegrating as numerous pot holes emerge, some of them very cavernous due to shoddy repairs and construction, primarily as a result of corruption in the awarding of contracts as well as the lack of proper oversight to ensure that taxpayers are getting value for their money.
Ah well, the more things change, the more they remain the same. And as our politicians fight for the power and the glory, Jah kingdom goes to waste.
Lloyd B Smith has been involved in Jamaican media for the past 48 years. He has also served as a Member of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. He hails from western Jamaica, where he is popularly known as the Governor. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or lbsmith4@gmail.com.
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