It seems as if every day I hear something new about the country I call home and it is almost never anything good.
The beautiful island of Jamaica declared its independence from Britain in 1962 and, after the first decade, has been struggling to do something productive. Though still a commonwealth of the Queen, the more recent Jamaican politicians have over the years proven themselves incapable of providing the country with a stable government, a safe environment, and progressive changes. Jamaica is the third most populous English-speaking country in the Americas, behind the US & Canada, and has almost nothing left to its name.
Politicians, largely for their own short-term benefit, have sold out most if not all its monetary industries to countries in Europe & Latin America, the US, and Trinidad. Rich men in said countries have invested in large amounts of land where they build luxury hotels and condominiums like RIU and The Palmayra–places where the average Jamaican citizen cannot afford to live nor vacation. Not one hotel in Jamaica is owned by the Jamaican government and none of the proceeds from the privately owned hotels go to our country, but instead to the already wealthy investors or countries.
They have also managed to sell out all money-making industries and have created a dangerous environment that has put a damper on the once dependable industry of tourism. Further, the tourists who do go to Jamaica are filling the pockets of those private companies that build all-inclusive hotels and expensive attractions, and transport the tourists directly from the airport to those places, where they stay for their entire vacation. Though the most popular resorts of Sandals & Beaches are not owned by another country, they are still under the management of one man, Gordon “Butch” Stuart, to whom all proceeds go.
Since 2006, statistics show a decrease in unemployment, an increase in agricultural and tourist industries, and an overall growing economy. The biggest problem, however, as it has been for years, is controlling the crime rate in the more metropolitan areas. For years Jamaica has been at the top of the list for countries with the highest crime rate. As taxes increase and citizens inadvertently use more money than they make, it is no wonder the crime rate has significantly increased. An estimated 60% of highly educated Jamaicans live abroad–a pattern that increases along with the crime rate and low pay. Most Jamaican University graduates are faced with not being able to find a good paying job worthy of their degrees, if any at all. There are no job opportunities for those highly educated citizens, which explains the great brain drain the country has been experiencing. Now, young adults are leaving right after high school and heading to the US, England, and even other Caribbean countries.
More recently I was informed of yet another problem; water shortage. Jamaica “the land of wood and water” is without the latter. Residents in the metropolitan area in Kingston have been placed on a water timetable. The two main sources, Mona Reservoir (capacity: 809 million gallons) and Hermitage Reservoir (capacity: 393 million gallons) are both less than half filled to capacity, leaving the capital with running pipe water for only four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening. It is not out of the ordinary for someone to wake up in the morning, turn on the pipe, and have nothing come out. Those who are more fortunate have tanks, and those who are not have buckets. During those 8 hours those less-fortunate residents make it a point to retain as much water as possible so that they can wash their hands or take a shower if necessary.
Imagine that. Something as simple as waking up and heading to the bathroom to brush your teeth is a problem to people all over the world as it is not only Jamaica that is having a water shortage. This is a serious problem. Jamaica already owes IMF billions of dollars in debt, and were ordered to sell the country’s airline, Air Jamaica, before any more money could be borrowed. The process of desalination, which is the only alternative, would cost millions of dollars in energy and in the process itself; millions that the country does not have. This water shortage has forced some schools to close early on some days and completely on others and has also forced them on some occasions to buy water for $20,000 per truck load.
One a more international scale, Jamaica has been in the news for a man by the name of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, the head of the Shower Posse and allegedly one of the world’s most notorious narcotic kingpins. His extradition was ordered by US officials in August and the request has since been denied by the Jamaican government. This has “indirectly” resulted in the revoking of visas from many of our popular Dancehall artistes, which has since been a topic of great discussion. Both countries remain strong and steadfast in their positions; leaving critics to debate the rumoured connection between Dudus and the current elected party. Meanwhile the relationship between the US and Jamaica, and quite possibly other US-allied countries, continues to deteriorate. My opinion on the matter will remain reticent and impervious; however, I do believe that the line needs to be drawn somewhere.
Reducing crime starts from the top down; be it first a notorious kingpin or a crooked politician.
More along a domestic spectrum, all government school teachers are now on their second day of strike. The government allegedly owes them billions of dollars too and they have decided to make a scene of it. There is no doubt that this is not the first time the teachers have been on strike, and I can’t say that their strikes have ever been successful. However, today marks the second day of schools being closed because of justifiably disgruntled teachers, meanwhile the students countrywide are supposed to be preparing for the very important CXC and Cape exams.
Something needs to happen in Jamaica. Too many weapons have been smuggled into the country, too many politicians are in it for personal reasons, and too many people are suffering.