Emancipation and the Titanic

As we mark Emancipation Day, we must endeavour to look deeply at the areas of national life in which we cannot claim full emancipation and in which we have not fulfilled the hopes and aspirations of the descendants of the newly freed slaves. One very obvious area is the Jamaican economy which we can liken to the ill-fated Titanic.

The lack of measurable economic growth during the last 25 years under the leadership of our two major political parties has resulted in Jamaicans being worse off economically than they were in the mid-1980s. This record of non-performance is among the worst in the entire world and is equivalent to the sinking of the Titanic.

The Jamaican economy, like the Titanic, was supposed to be unsinkable, coming off the high rates of economic growth in the 1960s and its high standing among developing countries. Like the Titanic, the Jamaican economy sank and lies in very deep waters.

Our economy is like a company that has not made a profit but accumulated huge annual losses and an enormous debt. Since we cannot declare bankruptcy, the Jamaican electorate did what any group of shareholders would do: they fired the management and relieved the captains of the good ship Jamaica of their post at the helm. Common to the various captains has been a navigational team of veterans who have been on every trip.

Latterly, Captain Audley Shaw created a navigational team which is two-thirds new and one-third experience – a good blend. Captain Peter Phillips has employed the new hybrid crew and is headed in the only direction that can avoid running aground. That course is towards an International Monetary Fund agreement.

Bound to crash

If this destination is not reached by the end of 2012, then we will be on the Titanic for a second time and are bound to crash. If the ship Jamaica does not get to safe harbour by year-end then we will not be able to credit any more fuel (foreign exchange) and the passengers will have to abandon ship as they did in the 1970s and perhaps swim for Miami.

The political dilemma which could make this the second time on the Titanic is that the good ship Jamaica is making haste slowly and at this pace may not get to the safe harbour of the IMF before there is a mutiny. The call to mutiny has already been made by those who, having charted the course for the first crash, are now calling for the same non-IMF course. Some people do not learn even the hard way.

As if wanting to ensure that Jamaicans get a second Titanic experience, there are pundits who have been braying for the recall of the navigation team, in particular, the first mate, who caused the crash the first time. This is inconceivable to rational people.

If you have been on the Titanic you should recognise when a ship is in danger of sinking. The last thing to do at this stage is to recall the navigational crew that was responsible for the crash of the vessel.

We say, leave Captain Phillips and the new crew to sail the good ship Jamaica to the safety of an IMF agreement. Those who can’t change course should be left to paddle their own canoe.

One thing is for sure, they do not have the vision that can lead to our economic emancipation.

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