From piracy to scamming


Thursday, June 15, 2017

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Last Friday, I overheard a mother telling her teenaged daughter not to follow the bad example of one of her friends at school. She told her daughter that when she gets the PATH money, she should spend it on the skills training that she requested. Apparently another student at her daughter's school had spent her PATH money at the hairdresser's.

In the 1970s, money was given to members of the pioneer corps to start farms and other commercial entities. Many took the money and bought motorcycles. So by the time the Community Enterprises were set up in the late 1970s, a different approach was taken.

I was employed as a field officer to the parent public company Community Economic Organisation (CEO) that set up the Community Enterprises all over Jamaica. I was a community relations officer, where much of my job description was about teaching co-operative principles. The socialist governments in Europe at the time generously funded it.

All of these community enterprises were to have become registered co-operatives. However the Government changed in 1980 and the new Government did not continue them.

Nevertheless, at the time when the CEOs were up and running, no one got cheques or cash in response to a request for funding. For example, the fishermen's community enterprises that applied for funding had to be specific in what they wanted. Was it a boat? Was it a boat engine? Was it material to make fish pots?

The project officer would find out the costs of these things, which would be bought by the company and the price was the loan. The same went for any other kind of project. And they repaid the loan through the profits of their community enterprises.

When the Government changed in 1980, there were statements at the Cabinet level that all sorts of investigations would be done with respect to government agencies. Small wonder then that the Community Economic Organisation was not called upon to answer questions.

When was this policy reversed with respect to issuing cheques directly to applicants instead of being sent to the requested destination? Was it when the Government changed in 1980 or was it done after? Clearly the reversal was done under very quiet and hidden circumstances.

Even so, why was it allowed to continue when the political directorate changed again in ensuing years? Did someone believe that it would go unnoticed forever? Still, isn't this the story of Jamaica and how things have been done from the days of piracy?

Henry Morgan was taken out of the Tower of London as a convicted pirate and brought back to Jamaica as governor. The British authorities thought that this was the only way to keep their part of the bargain of the Treaty of Madrid of 1670 that piracy should stop.

So Henry Morgan's mandate was to stop piracy. How did he do this? He sold land cheaply to pirates and they became the aristocracy, and from that day forward we have had a problem. First, the stealing of people for slavery continued. Second, evidence of corruption in high places has been recorded in history.

English prisoners settled Australia. But the fundamental difference here is that the criminals did not take over Australia in that psychological state of mind.

It was their descendants in Australia who had undergone some amount of an ongoing civilisation who took over Australia, especially after that nation continent achieved self-government and later its independence. And while all races were once in slavery the Australians came out of it a few centuries before our forefathers.

Our education system has improved by leaps and bounds over the years but certain principal questions have not been addressed. Our education system is exam-driven, not character-change driven to fit the type of society that we say we want. If this is not addressed, then the so-called Vision 2030 will just be another joke.

In 2001, Collin Greenland wrote a book called Persistent Perversity, which spoke to the growing ponzi schemes that caught so many unaware while their money was stolen. It is time to read the book again. As it was self-published, Greenland should not have much problem printing more copies for sale.

The preponderance of pyramids, ponzi schemes and the scamming that has taken place are the latest symptoms of this corruption that is endemic to Jamaica, given our history of piracy.

In his book, Greenland wrote (page 16) “one of the great tragedies of the pyramid experience in Jamaica is the possible damage it can do to the established traditional informal savings method utilised over the years in our beloved island”.

Greenland was referring to 'partner', the informal savings system known as 'paadna' in the Jamaican dialect. 'The Jamaican traditional paadnas' is the title of chapter 2 of Greenland's book.

Actually, the partner system is an informal co-operative that came here from Ghana in Africa. Incidentally, 'paadnas' is known as su-su in Ghana. On the other side of Africa, the late Julius Nyerere said that traditional African society was socialist. This is clearly one example of what he was referring to.

I have known Collin Greenland for about 50 years. He was a junior student to me at Jamaica College. He is a former president of the JC Parent/Teachers Association. I have discussed my co-operative tourism ideas with him over the years. He insists that to get it going, no one will listen unless some well-known businessmen are involved. The above sentence quoted from his book indicates why he takes this position.

But as understandable as Greenland's opinion is, to take this advice would be to defeat the purpose of trying to achieve empowerment for the poor. I am prepared to scout the entire country for the bankers in the 'paadnas', find those who are trusted and hopefully get them involved to be the treasurers in the tourism co-ops. And again, to quote the late Rex Nettleford courtesy of Dr Trevor Munroe, “transforming Jamaica is a marathon, not a sprint”.





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