Review

 

The following texts are extracts from Lance Neita (Jamaica Observer columnist)

Foreword

to

The Long Road to Progress for Jamaica

 

 

Shim’s knowledge of Jamaica’s politics is well grounded, as his father’s home and business in downtown Kingston was a regular meeting place for politicians, business people and journalists with strong opinions who did not mince their words on the hot political topics of the day.

★★★★★★★★★★

Because Shim sees Jamaica needing to take a sharp turnaround, he spares no punches in his assessment of our political leadership, administrative choices, cultural behaviours, psyche, and what he describes as a failure to provide growth and development.

★★★★★★★★★★
This is a book intended to turn Jamaica on edge and force a nation to look deeply into its history, examine paths taken, decisions made, options chosen, and to argue about the critical shortcomings or benefits of the economic and social experiments undertaken by successive administrations.

★★★★★★★★★★

The Long Road to Progress for Jamaica is not a doomsday book by any means. In fact, in spite of what Shim identifies as the unerring truths and conclusions and inevitably sad results of wrong moves made for most of our independence journey, this compelling book is not short of realistic optimism or a practical search for solutions.

★★★★★★★★★★

Historical tie-ins are an admirable aspect of the book. The reader is kept on track as different stages in our history are matched with social, political, cultural and historical developments that can be traced back to internal or external conditions that dominated the social landscape, lifestyle and circumstance of the time.

★★★★★★★★★★

Shim’s assessment of Jamaica’s progress as an independent nation is unambiguous, starting with the Introduction, in which he makes plain his disenchantment with the political leadership of the country since 1962.

★★★★★★★★★★

Blame is cast equally on either side, and the chips fall where they may. However, the author makes it clear that he is not ascribing blame or responsibility to any individual or entity, and if this is seen to be the case, “it is certainly not intentional.” None of the characters or institutions in this play will exit the stage unblemished. Garrisons, corruption, dons, criminals, political parties, blindfolded party followers, and even those who would want to blame our plight on the psychological batterings of slavery, poverty, colonialism, and racial bias, none of these have a legitimate excuse.

★★★★★★★★★★

Hold on to your seats in Part II, especially Chapter 4, where he accords responsibilities both for state achievements and state failures on our Independence journey. Writers sometimes get away with clichés such as ‘good governance’, but in this chapter his itemized list with summaries attached provide a standard by which such governance can be measured.

★★★★★★★★★★

There is much to agree and to disagree with in this book. The writer’s liberal instincts, shaped perhaps in Canada, makes a brave raid on the staid conservatism that has left us stuck in our traditional ways. Even the ingrained bigotry in Jamaica against homosexuality is challenged to make room for more progressive thinking in step with trending liberalism through a recommendation to ban immoral and violent lyrics in our popular culture that comes down hard on gay behavior.

★★★★★★★★★★

This is not a book for timid readers or apologetics. This is meant to be a wake up call. As an author, Shim maintains that his goal is not just to write about problems, but also to find solutions. In that respect, he doesn’t leave us hanging.

**********************************

BOOK REVIEW

by

ROSEMARY Y. BOREL

 

The Long Road to Progress for Jamaica

By Jermel Shim

A Review by Rosemary Y. Borel

 

The author’s book is divided into three sections regarding Jamaica’s progress:

I:   The Legacy of Colonialism

II: The Independence period

III. The Blueprint for Growth and Development

 

The first section is mainly a history of Jamaica’s colonial past. He opines that although the colonial masters brought order and a good infrastructure to the island, these were solely established in the interests of the colonial power and were superseded by the adverse effects of slavery and colonization on the population. The psychological effects caused by the imposition of the culture and values of the colonizing power as well as the waves of immigration leading to the great diversity of the population are largely felt even up to the present day. Moreover, the author feels that the Westminster system of government that encourages political tribalism has not been in the best interests of Jamaica. The people were not adequately prepared to exercise their rights as voters and citizens. For a long time, it seemed strange to me that getting one’s preferred party in power was a matter of life and death. In the industrialized countries of Western Europe and North America, if one’s party was voted out, the politicians and their supporters simply went back to their regular jobs. In Jamaica if your party was out of power, most likely you were out of a job and you could not feed, house or support your family. Of course, having a two-party system meant that the British colonial power had more control over the population, a popular tactic of “divide and rule.” A one-party nationalist movement such as what existed in the 1960s in several African nations like Tanzania would not have been in the interest of the colonizer, but that is another story with its own pitfalls.

Section II lists the achievements and failures of the independence period from 1962 to the present time. Regarding the failures, Mr. Shim puts blame squarely on both political parties with the rise of political tribalism, garrison constituencies, violent crime and corruption. In my opinion, the People’s National Party under Michael Manley tried to come up with some ideas for Jamaica’s development that backfired. The bauxite levy imposed by the Manley regime comes under heavy criticism from the author. There were many who felt that Jamaica was not getting its fair share from its natural resource, bauxite. A 14% tax increase on the bauxite companies probably showed the naivety of the Jamaican government because it did not anticipate the massive retaliation from the USA and the international bauxite companies. Would a smaller increase have provoked a similar response? Who knows, considering that Jamaica’s behemoth neighbor would brook no dalliance between Jamaica and communist Cuba. Michael Manley and his party did not foresee the backlash from the USA, with reputed CIA operatives ensuring that Jamaica did not go communist. United States support for opposition leader Edward Seaga no doubt ensured his success. Was this a covert form of colonialism? (If you do not cooperate with us, we’ll break you!!) Dr. Cheddi Jagan of Guyana suffered a similar fate. To add insult to injury, foreign Aid and IMF punitive measures was another way the industrialized countries fought back. One point I found that Mr. Shim barely touched on was many Jamaicans’ belief that Edward Seaga was the one who introduced the concept of the garrison constituency at Tivoli Gardens. Since he had no trade union background, he had to find another way to elicit the loyalty of his supporters. So it was that armed retainers under the leadership of the local Don and the upsurge of violence and crime reared its ugly head.

Section III offers suggestions from the author for Jamaica’s future progress so that it can achieve development politically, economically and in all aspects of its life. Mr. Shim suggests that Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew is a political leader to emulate. No doubt the Singaporean leader had the ideas, vision and determination to achieve economic development for his country, and he refused to tolerate crime, corruption and indiscipline in its people. There were probably two things going in his favor. Singapore is culturally more coherent than Jamaica, and the Asian mentality seems more willing to accept discipline and authority. Lee Kuan Yew remained in power for several years and would have been regarded more like a benevolent dictator; his support would remain strong as long as the country was prospering. Would Jamaicans take kindly to being jailed for an offense like littering or spitting in public?

More importantly, Singapore’s geo-political position is quite different to Jamaica’s. Singapore lies at a crossroads of shipping and air routes that facilitates trade. It lies outside the sphere of influence of the United States, the latter having a mixed effect on Jamaica; I want to believe that the adverse effects have superseded the beneficial ones. Singapore lies within China’s sphere of influence, but that is another story. Mr Shim hardly says anything about Jamaica’s geographical location in the central Caribbean on the main route for the drug trade from South America to the United States. It is a major transshipment point for drugs and nearly all the islands have found that when one route is blocked for one reason or another, the drug barons and smugglers find another route. Even Antigua and little Anguilla have found out this to their great cost. Nothing has been said about the great demand in North America that feeds the drug trade and encourages crime and corruption in small countries like Jamaica.

The author suggests that the corporate model with a Chief Executive Officer and a Board of Directors could be used as an alternative to the two-party political system. The mentality of the people would have to be changed so that their allegiance would be first to their country rather than to party. Then, who would be the leaders voted into such a system? Technocrats, who tend to have little charisma? Or businessmen or former CEOs? The latter have not proved free from corruption in the United States. Some of the pitfalls are white collar crimes, conflicts of interest between private business, past and present, and the needs of the country. Would the interest of big business coincide with the concerns of the popular masses? Undoubtedly former CEOs now running a government of a country would still have association with business friends who meet in country clubs and golf courses and are part of the good old boy associations. Wall Street could still be running Main Street.

Despite Jamaica’s past failures, the author ends on an optimistic note, believing that the country can overcome the many obstacles it faces. He believes that both primary and secondary stakeholders must come forward to provide leadership, establish well-defined goals, and encourage citizens to make sacrifices so as to achieve progress. He identifies the primary stakeholders as the government institutions, and the general public. Secondary stakeholders include investors, traders, tourists, the media and the Jamaican diaspora. While I do not agree with all of Mr. Shim’s ideas, nevertheless I have found The Long Road to Progress for Jamaica stimulating, provoking food for thought, hopefully sparking ideas for all Jamaicans to work together to build the country and achieve a status of development.