National agenda for 2018

Sunday, December 31, 2017

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New Year's Eve is an ideal time to reflect on the year that is ending and to focus on formulating an agenda of priorities for 2018.

The passage of one year to another does not change the problems facing a country, but it can be an important opportunity to change policy, indeed to begin a fresh approach, even if symbolic.

This is also a good time for Jamaicans to make suggestions and constructive criticisms, in the spirit of patriotism, on how we can move forward as a nation or what we are doing wrong that can be improved.

We are deeply aware that with all our differences — to which everyone is entitled — we are all in the same boat. Building a country cannot be left to Government alone, although the Government must be the prime mover and leader.

We start from the assumption that every problem has a solution, and that it is not beyond the ingenuity of Jamaicans to find that solution and implement it successfully.

Few will disagree that the number one priority issue requiring the total effort of the Government and the population is crime, especially the murder rate, which must be effectively addressed if the Jamaican society is to survive as a functioning entity, and if the economy is to be freed of this major and costly impediment.

Soaring speeches by politicians do not constitute policy, neither do more eloquent briefings by the police high command. Law and order is the indispensable basis for society and at this time law and order is a critical issue for Jamaica.

Clearly, the next priority on the national agenda must be to finally get meaningful economic growth on a sustainable basis. We have achieved economic stability, but there is growing impatience that the benefits are taking too long to reach the most vulnerable.

One per cent economic growth is within the statistical margin of error. The Government's dilemma is that sticking to the International Monetary Fund programme, while a necessity, will not by itself produce the desired economic growth.

The third priority on the agenda is the need for a foreign policy review so that Jamaicans can be clear on our international position in the world. A small, highly open developing economy must have a foreign policy which supports economic development.

We are still not yet clear if the Government is abandoning the long-standing non-alignment policy. If this is the case, it should be articulated and not left for us to guess. There might be pragmatic reasons, but this cannot be held as a secret.

The nation must be told if we are embracing Israel over the Palestinians and the benefits explained. If we are at odds with the rest of the Caribbean Community over relations with the Dominican Republic, then admit it.

There are numerous issues vying for fourth place on the priority list. But we suggest that Jamaicans reassess our expectations and decide whether it is realistic to go on repeatedly citing panaceas, in particular investment from the Diaspora (including the much touted Diaspora bond).

Having said all that, we believe firmly that these are times for the optimists. The circumstances in our nation require the indomitable Jamaican spirit and audacity to soar. That must be our mantra for 2018.

We wish all Jamaicans God's richest blessings in this new year.




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