Jamaicans are quite capable of riding and whistling at the same time, or as the Americans say, “walk and chew gum at the same time”.
We are not by any stretch a monolith. we are a diverse community of people of African, Chinese, Caucasian, Indian, Arab, Lebanese, Jewish and a slew of other people. Yet we are a people vehemently Jamaican to our core, all of us.
It is for that reason that we can take pride in the strides our country have made since 1962 when our country was granted Independence and given autonomy over our own lives.
Our progress in areas of education, culture, sports, medicine, research, agriculture, tourism, is remarkable.
As a small nation, we have every right to hold our head high. Even among our least educated people, street smarts are a valuable and valued currency that makes every Jamaican, not just witty, but deceptively intriguing.
We are second to no one in making something from very little.
Understanding those attributes makes it a head-scratcher that we are not connecting the dots on the trauma violent crime is wreaking on the country.
There are many Jamaicans, far too many if you ask me, who would rather that we focus solely on the positives. We shouldn’t wash our dirty laundry in public they say.
Of course, those people forgot one little secret, there is something called the internet, there are no secrets anymore.
Others say we should simply focus on the good things. As if the bad things will just get frustrated and disappear on their own.
Bad things happen on their own, people have to work their buns off to make good things happen, both individually and collectively.
We must champion the good and seek to improve on them but we must focus like a laser on the bad, otherwise bad becomes worse and the worse will inexorably make us the worst.
We have to find ways to agree that the things that are good are commendable and that the things which are not so good are .……well they are not good, and we must find ways to fix them collectively.
The year 2019 ended with over 1300 murders, which represented an increase over the year 2018 which had registered a decrease compared to the year 2017.
Essentially, even when there is a slight decrease in violent deaths and assaults, because of an absence of workable and sustainable strategies crime levels become solely a function of the whims and fancy of the violence producers.
The World Bank laid out how crime affects nations as follows.
A high rate of violent crime can have many adverse repercussions:
1 It has a negative impact on the investment climate and can deter or delay both domestic and foreign investment, and hence growth.
2 It leads to a higher cost of doing business, because of the need to employ different forms of security, and diverts investment away from business expansion and productivity improvement, and may lead to a less than optimal operating strategy.
- 2 It leads to business losses, arising from looting, arson, theft, extortion, and fraud.
- 3 It leads to loss of output because of reduced hours of operation (including avoiding night shifts) or loss of workdays arising from outbreaks of violence, and avoidance of some types of economic activity.
- 4 It also reduces output because of the temporary (from injury) or permanent (from murder) exit of individuals from the labor force. In the latter case, the loss is not just the current output, but the output in the remaining years of the individual’s working life.
- 5 It can also cause a permanent shut-down of firms or relocation to less crime-prone countries.
It erodes the development of human capital as well as social capital and thus constrains the potential for growth. The crime situation in Jamaica seems to be an important reason for migration, since the fear of crime significantly reduces the quality of life. Crime and violence have also been blamed for slowing down the rate of return of migrants back to Jamaica. Also, crime forces otherwise productive individuals to occasionally exit the labor force because of violent injury to themselves or close associates, or because of social unrest in the community. Violence in some communities also causes schools to close periodically. Moreover, home and community instability is not conducive to learning and educational objectives.
It diverts public resources excessively away from productive uses that have a potentially much higher impact on social development and growth, to areas such as police, justice, the medical system (for treatment of violence-related injuries and trauma). For example, between 1988⁄89 and 2001⁄02, Jamaica’s budgetary expenditure for health, in nominal terms, grew 23 percent annually, whereas the budget for national security and justice grew by 62 percent. Since 1999, the budget for Justice and Correctional Services plus the Police has exceeded the budget allocation for health (PIOJ, various issues). For private citizens, it also diverts resources away from potentially useful expenditures like education, to spending on treating injury and on private security.
Unless we develop testicular fortitude and stop pretending that we can deal with this issue by the book, this problem is simply going to get worse.
This is not a problem for America to solve, America cannot solve its own problems.
It is not up to the British or Canadians to fix our crime problem. We have this unique Jamaican propensity of ignoring dangerous criminals.
In fact, we not only ignore their crimes, but we also idolize and lionize the criminals until they become too large and powerful to be controlled locally.
Then we look for the Americans to come to bail us out, as if Jamaica is the fifty-first state of the United States.
In the meantime, the harm they do to the country is incalculable, not just in blood and treasure but to our popular culture.
An interstate highway without guardrails is really not a properly constructed highway. A country that refuses to guard its established democratic principles is a country destined for failure.
Former Contractor General and now director of the Turks and Caicos Islands Integrity Commission Greg Christie, speaking at the Annual Archbishop Samuel Carter Lecture held Wednesday evening at Campion College, highlighted that Jamaica is now the number two murder capital of the world.
Let that sink in because someone is going to argue that things are not so bad, even though the cumulative cost is outlined above.
“Speaking of Jamaica, Christie said, “It’s now number six in organized crime out of 141 countries, that’s not something to be happy about”. “We can’t put that under the covers”. It tells us something about our society – a very murderous society.”
“There are two laws in our society. “One for the well-to-do – the rich, the connected – and there is another law. The first one is seldom applied while the other one is applied to everybody,” Christie said.
We are running a fool’s errand when we pretend that our country is on the path to some kind of economic miracle, despite this unchecked lawlessness.
Yet one writer characterized Greg Christie this way. “Christie’s, acid tongue and voluminous reports chafed the nerves of public officials during his tenure in Jamaica”.
Speaking out is characterized as acid-tongued.
The longer the authorities wait to clamp down on this monster the more entrenched it becomes, the more entrenched it becomes is the harder it is to eradicate.
Mike Beckles is a former Jamaican police Detective corporal, businessman, researcher, and blogger.
He is a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog chatt-a-box.com.
He’s also a contributor to several websites.
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