Politics

The Spies Coming in from The East

This is my final article for the month of April. Thank you for reading and I will see you in June!

High school History traces the reasons why the early settlers came to Jamaica and how they helped to shape our motto: Out Of Many, One People. The Spanish, The English and The Africans take up a big chunk of our history, this is why we spend so much time on Columbus and Slavery and Emancipation. However, the section of history after Slavery, the part that helps to make up what Jamaica is today culturally and economically, is indentureship and it is rarely expounded upon. The ethnic groups that cement themselves among us have done so pretty easily and nowadays these races, namely the Chinese, are extending from family owned stores to big conglomerates to impose on Jamaican livelihood.

This type of influence is dangerous especially since our law makers have a history of shortchanging brand Jamaica with poor management practices. Those from The East are eager to fill these shortcomings with a lot of their own criteria but, as a people, how aware are we of it all?

Waste, Debt, Borrow, Owe, Sell. Waste…

Jamaica is a country of sectors not industries and the main reason for this is because we are generally always in debt. Sometimes, if the debt is too high, we sell. It if for this reason that some people say that Jamaica hardly owns anything Jamaican. For example, our bauxite and sugar industries are owned primarily by the Chinese; the Spanish own a large portion of our hotels, the Japanese loosely have their hands in coffee and the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) is owned 40% by the Japanese, 40% by the Chinese and 19.9% government. We even sell parts of our public roads to foreigners; recently the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) sold some Chinese store owners parking spaces for $200,000 last year.

We should then be economical and strategic when it comes to administration because of our debt, right? This week I saw that Minister of Culture, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange doesn’t seem to think so. After opposition Culture Minister, Lisa Hanna accused Grange of creating a pattern of hiring personnel consultants instead of local agencies within her portfolio, Grange this week gave a confession. She stated that she was unaware of the details in a contract to hand over $15 million to a consultant for the 2016 Grand Gala. She stated:

I was not aware of the details of the contract and was not involved in any way in the engagement or contracting of Mr. Nairne (consultant). This was handled by the JCDC (local agency) management team whose prerogative it is to enter into contracts on behalf of the commission.

Sure, but why wasn’t the Minister aware of the details in a contract so large? Seemingly harmless mismanagement techniques have put us on a self destructive path as a nation. Another example was in 2011 when Air Jamaica was sold to Caribbean Airlines because of  poor decisions made while under the government and the private sector. With Ms. Grange I am irritated because if Hanna didn’t force her hand, would we have known? More importantly, what else don’t we know?

Adaptable, Dependable, Organised, Wary. Adaptable

It this kind of attitude that leaves room from slow movers, observers and opportunists– qualities that have roots in espionage if you think about it– to swoop down and offer to save us. I say ‘espionage’ because if you observe ‘Mr. Chin’s’ and even ‘Mrs. Singh’s’ families they both ‘behave’ like spies. For example, they watch our interactions and adapt in a short time to speak our patois (not our Standard English) for better communication yet they will talk about us openly in their mother tongue; they blend in to the point where people often ask, “Have you ever seen a pregnant Chinese woman?” They exist but we hardly see them because Asians are never flashy like the average Jamaican; their deep distrust of us is obvious because they only operate as a family unit, they will own a business for generations because they keep it in the family and they encourage marriage within their own race.

holness-chinese-signs-deal-for-parliament.jpgPrime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness signs the MOU with with China Construction of America for the commission of the new Parliament building and Government offices, March 2017 (image source).

It is these qualities of being adaptable, dependable, organised and careful that have allowed Chinese and Indian immigrants to excel in the corner stores and restaurants and electronic and furniture dealerships and also to excel in our playing field. Chinese companies are building our highways and the Logics Hub, but the most recent example of their influence in Jamaica is when it was reported that the new Chinese funded parliament building would pay Chinese workers while local contractors would be asked to “volunteer,” as well as when Chinese companies began to build local hotels over local firms.

Historically, Jamaica does not seem to see the need to critically invest in our sectors, our assets or our capabilities. We would rather undermine ourselves and our capacity to develop as a nation in the long run by out sourcing help from countries that have instilled self reliance and vision in its people instead of nourishing a strong backbone for independence and duty at home. The Spanish colonized us, The English demonized us and The Africans defined us but what about those who brought self-management and entrepreneurial skills to our shores? History class should encourage us to learn from the ones who are steadily voicing their influence in Jamaica’s Finance and Economy and maybe this would allow us to see what real life spies actually look like. –Bless.

Footnotes: so, in January of this year the government spent $800 million dollars on an island wide debushing and drain cleaning exercise. They wanted to eradicate the possibility of disease being spread by vermin like rats and mosquitos. The project was expensive; even public figures like Damion Crawford went to Twitter to express realistic expectations. Now cut to last week when heavy rains flooded Clarendon, St. Elizabeth and St Thomas. In Clarendon cars were fully covered in water, people were swimming in water to go home, people were moved through water into shelters. The damage is estimated run the government nearly half a billion dollars to fix. I wonder what happened? Was there a draining problem? The Minister of of Local Government says yes, there was a draining problem. Shocker. All those mosquitos that were worried about their future… dem jus’ a live the dream now doh? You know what they say, good things always come to those who wait.

[cover art by: Johannes Stötter]

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