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Can a half-Jamaican presidential hopeful inspire us to build our land?

Franklin
Johnston

Friday, January 25, 2019

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As a candidate Andrew Holness presented as different, since he was young, but it's not working. He must be frustrated that he is not able to show better results than his predecessors; Portia excepted, thanks to Peter's success with economic fundamentals. As a nation we are not victorious. The sadness of Prime Minister Andrew Holness when he said “we are not growing satisfactorily” ( The Gleaner , January 19) is one we share.

But now Jamaica is on stage in US Senator Kamala Harris — a presidential aspirant with our DNA. The scion of high-performing academics — one a Jamaican and his Indian cancer scientist wife — she has pedigree to die for, but if academic excellence determined office sitting US President Donald Trump would not be there. So here she stands.

Our people are stellar performers as individuals, yet despite billions of aid, remittances, and tourism income our nation qua state fails. Every time our brand is hoisted by someone it shows up the incompetence of our governments. Holness runs the risk of his predecessors — strong on chat, weak on results. I worry that he has not announced the new “five in four”, and his failed team has departed; what next?

We are proud of Kamala. Is she be proud of us? When Barack Obama won we had slave-minded; freeness folk saying we “gone clear”, and there are rumblings now. Is self-reliance dead? Sir, consider Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, Usain Bolt; live up to your inner Michael Manley and lift Jamaica from poverty to prosperity, or is this a mere tag line?

The key is to export in multiples, so Cabinet must identify best prospect sectors, firms and give them incentives. Holness inherited a fit-for-purpose economy, primed for growth; three years gone, “five in four” misfired and failure has no parents. Sir, reprise it, this time with target sectors, firms as growth leaders. Agree key performance indicators and monitor them.

Big up firm, team, worker by industry; get collegial rivalry going with awards for production records — the works! The equation for prosperity is simple “P = pX – I x 7C”, where production for export (pX) is multiples of imports (I) for at least seven cycles.

Our Diaspora produces a serious presidential prospect in the greatest nation since Caesar's Rome, and we can't prosper the rock her dad left long ago — shame! Farming products for export and import substitution should be priorities. We have good extension services, land, and idle people, but we can't feed ourselves. Why? The key to sustainable agriculture is subsidy, or to use the global euphemism “the annual monetary value of gross transfers from consumers and taxpayers to agricultural producers” (Agricultural Policy, Monitoring and Evaluation, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2017 ). Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia are nations with little subsidy; Scandinavian countries have up to 60 per cent; Canada, USA, European Union in-between.

Cabinets feed us imported subsidised chicken, rice, beef, red peas, onion, and tells us to produce without subsidy. Bulls! The US Federal Government passes a Farm Bill every five years “to regulate government incentives to agribusiness, agricultural organisations and farms to supplement income, influence cost and supply”; food stamps to stabilise markets, help low-income farmers, and aid rural development. Crops include wheat, corn, barley, oats; cotton, milk, rice, honey, peanuts, sugar, tobacco, oilseeds; beef, pork, lamb, mutton and insurance. Stone fruits — peaches, plums, etc, get none but State governments chip in.

The 2018 Farm Bill of US$876 billion in incentives was passed in the Senate on December 11, 2018. Rural farmers and urban food stamp recipients are linked to promote rural/urban equity; one gets subsidy, the other food. Note also the Bill deals with cannabis for the first time, so watch this space! Farmers with incomes above US$900,000 get none and subsidies are capped at US$125,000 per household member. Note also farms with US$1 million-plus in sales were responsible for 51 per cent of production in 2015 ( Huffington Post, May 9, 2018). The broiler industry gets subsidy via corn and soya and at times the Feds buys up millions of pounds of chicken “for surplus removal” to keep prices stable ( Huffington Post, December 6, 2017).

The USA protects farmers, food security, rural life, why don't we even by mini steps? Let's 'love up' farmers by a pilot of “agricultural incentives”, the American euphemism, and buy pulses, rice and corn with long shelf life. Use the $10 billion-plus for institution, prisoner, school feeding to seed the plan. Buy at, say, 10 per cent above standard cost — a farmer's profit. It will cost taxpayers, but not affect price — just as we do for National Water Commission or Jamaica Urban Transit Company. We then gradually configure incentives for others and export crops to boost foreign exchange, production, jobs, rural cash flow; stem the urban drift and grow peace like the USA.

Sir, the choice is more police, soldiers, states of emergency, or farm subsidy; that way rural life rebounds. Take the deal! Our brand can't help Kamala, as Trump may say “you guys brought drug mules and posse from your s***hole country”. We help ourselves and her if we prosper Jamaica, stand tall among migrants and not allow political incompetence to hide behind Marley's and Bolt's personal achievements. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and lectures in logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com


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