Caribbean Fever - Your ONLY destination to all things Caribbean and more
It is the belief among many Jamaicans that the country is being sold out to foreigners at a very fast pace akin to a fire sale in progress. This conviction has been intensified by the latest news that the world-famous Dunn's River Falls, Jamaica's top signature attraction, is up for divestment.
Tourism is perhaps the lone star of the Jamaican economy under this Bruce Golding administration. But what is becoming increasingly apparent is that local entrepreneurs are not being given an opportunity to get their piece of the pie. The Falmouth Cruise Ship Port is one such example where despite many promises, it is more than obvious that there is very little room for the small fish and that it is the big fish that stands to benefit most from this major tourism development.
Despite a lot of "sweet talk" and persuasive arguments coming from government and quasi-government agencies, the harsh reality is that apart from a few token business operators, the bulk of the tourism pie has been reserved for those who are "genetically linked" or whose money power cannot be ignored, especially in a pre-election year. The demographics therefore indicate that black Jamaicans for the most part are expected to remain at the lower end of the tourism ladder, thus making them almost "economically enslaved" with no sign of liberation in sight.
Based on the revelations so far at the Finsac Commission of Enquiry, the previous PNP government's high interest rates policy saw to the destruction of many indigenous businesses (most of them owned and operated by black Jamaicans). Among the victims were a number of hoteliers and other entrepreneurs in tourism-related businesses who saw their efforts at economic empowerment blown to bits by a foolish, unconscionable and impractical high interest rate regime. To me, this can best be described as "economic genocide"! And I make no apologies for saying this.
You see, there is still a widespread perception in Jamaica that black people do not know how to run businesses successfully. To some extent, this may be true as there is a tendency for successful black business owners to show off. They must at all times drive the latest model top-of-the-line motor vehicle, they must have and maintain several sweethearts, they often plough very little back into their businesses, have no proper succession planning in place and tend to overexpose themselves as a result of their ostentatious lifestyles.
Notwithstanding that so-called "cultural tendency", there are many hard-working, enterprising Jamaicans who just need the necessary "backative" and opportunities to create their own prosperity. Regrettably, there is no meaningful venture capital programme in this country that is yet to achieve economic independence on the eve of our attainment of political independence. A most sorry state of affairs.
Both the Finsac and Manatt/Dudus commissions of enquiry are giving the nation a golden (or is it Golding?) opportunity to change course genuinely for the better. In the case of Finsac, this resulted from mismanagement of the country's fiscal affairs for which the PNP must take blame, while on the other hand, the JLP must accept responsibility for incompetent, corrupt and disingenuous ways in which it dealt with the extradition of Christopher "Dudus" Coke.
One of the frightening and most nauseating attitudes being taken by party hacks is the pointing of fingers and the justification of one act as against another, so Labourites point to Trafigura while Comrades point to the Dudus/Manatt fiasco. Frankly, it is time for both parties to cry "cree" because in the final analysis, neither of them is winning in this puerile propaganda war of words. What is even more disappointing is that neither the JLP's G2K nor the PNP's Youth Organisation has sought to take the moral high ground. Instead, they have sought to perpetuate the narrow, tribal and self-serving stance of political one-upmanship.
The alleged divestment exercise surrounding the Dunn's River Falls brings into sharp focus the point that our politicians are interested only in two things, mainly self-aggrandisement and self-preservation. At the rate of how things are going, Jamaicans will own very little of Jamaica. Already, we see where the day may well come when a Jamaican will not have access to a good beach. Are ordinary Jamaicans expected to buy into the well-worn, hypocritical slogan about tourism being everybody's business?
Why is it that successive governments have failed so far to truly empower small, medium and micro business enterprises? Why have our political leaders failed so far to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit that is in so many of us? Why do state policies continue to marginalise the majority of the Jamaican population who are poor but willing to make an honest and decent living, if given the chance. Contrary to the popular view, Jamaicans for the most part are not lazy and worthless. It is the system that has condemned so many of our people to a life of persistent poverty, mendicancy and subservience. In this vein, one must ask why is that there are not enough public corporations into which Jamaicans can buy shares. Must everything go to those who already have too much?
Jamaicans have had enough of political patronage, corporate altruism and the "hold down tek whey" approach to governance. It was Bruce Golding who once said we were too blessed to be so stressed. Today, Jamaicans are stressed out. Since the JLP gained power, the national debt has risen 60 per cent, thousands of jobs have been lost and poverty has increased. All this is happening when the government is borrowing money at a much cheaper interest rate and is collecting more revenue from taxpayers. For most people, it is now a "hand to mouth" existence, even while millions of dollars are being wasted in constructing more highways and a plethora of white elephants. When will it dawn on our politicians that true progress cannot be judged by the pouring of concrete but by the uplifting of the people who must be at the centre of any effective development plan? Selling out Jamaica is not the answer, the people want a national vision that they can buy into. Enough said!