Lisa Hanna, in the second of her two-part series titled the “tale of two Jamaica’s,” published in the Jamaica Observer dated June 04, 2023, is insightful, informative, and forthright.
Her critique of the ongoing saga regarding the recent increase in government salaries should serve as a call for all politicians to look within themselves and consider whether they have leveraged their intellectual capital to the growth and development of Jamaica, let alone deserving of what is deemed a mammoth salary increase.
Hanna questioned the metrics used for determining MPs’ pay and argued that the country’s GDP should not be used and, instead, focus should be placed on marketplace conditions.
However, one could easily object to that view since market conditions are intricately linked to the GDP and fall under the purview of politicians.
Hanna’s reference to Singapore’s economy should be a wake-up call to politicians who have asked the people to empower them on the basis that they would secure their welfare and, in general, make the country a better place for them.
Are Jamaicans better off today than they were ten years ago? That’s an important question to ask.
“Singapore is the envy of every developing nation, having moved its per capita income in 1960 from US$400 per annum to over US$72,000 today, ranking them eighth in the world above the United States. It is the country often referenced as the model of governance to follow,” writes Hanna.
“Lee Kuan Yew, the recognized founder of’ ‘New Singapore,’ attributes his country’s success to decisive leadership with the intense implementation of policies to drive education, meritocracy, integrity, and export earnings,” she added.
The problem with the Jamaican electorate is that they are easily satisfied and, for the most part, do not hold their politicians accountable locally or nationally.
This, of course, has to do with the lack of leadership at all levels of society.
Politicians have no power in a democratic society without the people ceding it.
Currently, most of the towns in Jamaica are ‘chaka chaka,’ laws are not enforced, and the social disorder speaks volumes.
Almost everybody has bought into the “eat a food” culture, and ‘anancyism’ or trickery has become a pastime, but I digressed.
Hanna further noted that “Singapore has no natural resources and a population of only 6 million people. Yet its exports are US$733.77 billion per annum compared to Jamaica. With a population of 3 million, our best year of exports was US$5.99 billion in 2019, less than 1 per cent of Singapore.”
Indeed, that’s a serious indictment on the political class, and they ought to hang their heads in shame.
The fact of the matter is we see no concerted attempt by the government to revolutionize that area of the economy.
One would be hard-pressed to find five big ideas the government is currently focusing on to bring about a dramatic change in Jamaica.
For the most part, Jamaica has become a cash crop economy that is tantamount to living from paycheck to paycheck.
The people have been banning their bellies from the 1970s until now with little or no significant economic change.
Hanna’s segue into salaries paid to workers in the private sector does not merit much consideration as that has little to do with the government but should be left between the private sector and its employees and shareholders.
The matter at hand is the government and its public sector workers and their relationship to the public purse.
Hanna’s deeper analysis of the public sector pay scale reveals that these workers received a whopping increase of 37 to 42%, which generally represents a mere 5% of the government budget, not much, she seems to argue.
Moreover, she posited that the increase in salaries for the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, and MPs represent a minuscule share of the overall budget.
The fact of the matter is no one begrudges these “lowly paid” government workers for their “minor” increases in the broader scheme of things.
However, the primary objection and angst of the people, the salary increase is unwarranted since it is perceived that people are not getting value for money.
Moreover, there is no guarantee that this new increase would yield any added value for money.
Consequently, the call is for benchmarks or measurement standards to be in place to hold politicians accountable for job performance.
Notwithstanding, matters of this nature can only be addressed within the context of a change in the constitutional construct.
The truth is anything less than that would be another attempt by the government to hoodwink the masses.
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Yvad Billings Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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