Mi fi believe Keith Duncan, EPOC?

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I just saw the most encouraging and exciting promotional video presentation I have seen in our nation for years! Mi seh mi cyaan believe it! I had to check if I was pregnant. I understood what Elizabeth of the Bible felt when she met with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and said, “The baby leaped in my womb for joy.” Who nuh know wat mi talking bout, go read Luke 1:39 to 45. Joy welled up in me, mi nearly bawl. I said to myself, “Dem finally listening and reading what many of us have been saying for years.”

I am referring to a promotional video put out by Keith Duncan and the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) regarding making ‘doing business’ easier in Jamaica for micro small & medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). All citizens should see it.

I must say I want to believe it, but I am not yet convinced it is true. I refuse to let myself believe, lest they inflate my soul, lift me up, then burst mi bubble and mek mi drop boof.

Bankers, we are going to need more than talk to convince us for buy-in. I refuse to allow my trusting-type personality to accept it at face value. Grampa said, “Mouth tun cross way, it mek fi say anything.”

Are we going to see lowering, and in some cases removal, of some banking fees? Scotiabank is one of the biggest perpetrators in this regard; its CEO is in the audiovisual piece promising transformation. Could this be real?

Are we going to lower the level of collateral requirements given our national realities?

Will bank loan decisions be made locally or overseas by insensitive people who are out-of-touch with reality assessors?

Will bank managers be returned to be true bank managers and not glorified tellers? Will they have the liberty to apply KYC (know your customer) principles and offer true personal banking, and deal accordingly, yet responsibly? Will they be given some latitude and range to use their discretion to walk their customers to success?

Our local banks should be freer to drive this change if they stop looking over the fence and be ‘follow fashion monkey’ to the foreign entities.

Will the bank remain totally risk averse or will they take some risk and insure the loans if necessary, as they can do? Certainly the Government can creatively assist with some guarantees as well.

Will best national interest and citizens/customer interest override and equal mere shareholder greed and exorbitant profit/interest?

Will they go the extra mile to help young MSMEs succeed, by working with churches and non-government organisations to help monitor, handhold, and guide for success? This particular approach will need a mindset change so the country grows and alleviates poverty.

Will money be allowed to remain and circulate in the country and not quick expatriation to overseas owners?

Will our Government be brave enough to place regulations to inhibit large conglomerates from controlling the market and eating up opportunities for the MSMEs? (Yes, this feature of a free market system must be regulated in a developing economy.)

MSMEs are tired of lack of support, and even competition from the very large commercial lending agencies from which they borrowed. Then at the end of the day we hear, “We gave you a chance but you failed”

Government and the private sector must be facilitatory. Small economies like ours must put limits on big businesses, so that room and potential is always here for the poor and small man. Big players cannot be allowed to gobble up everything. Scripture is strong on this principle: Do not exploit the poor because they are poor; and do not crush the needy in court. (Proverbs 22:22)

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor… (Leviticus 23:22)

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people… (Isaiah 10:1-3)

EPOC needs some people who think for and understand the MSMEs to sit with them. Pesent members are well meaning and must be commended, but their natural proclivity is toward a big business mindset.

If the promotional video is to be believed and achieved, it will be the most far-reaching economic move toward breaking the back of poverty, transforming the economy, and bringing prosperity; giving real hope to this Jamaica, land we love.

Permit me, Keith Duncan and others under whose ambit the promotional video falls, to make some suggestions:

i) Revert HEART Trust/NTA to it original purpose and mission: Strengthen it at the base of its original intent, that is to ensure a second chance to students whose vocational development could not be fully accommodated by our regular educational system.

For those who may have forgotten, the Human Employment and Resource Training Trust, National Training Agency is a key driver on Jamaica’s road to development. Formed in 1982, the organisation focuses primarily on stimulating economic growth and job creation. This can only be achieved through the creation of a highly skilled, productive and competitive workforce.

I believe that HEART’s conceptualiser, Edward Seaga, intended that it be made accessible to the most disadvantaged among us, especially since those students are the ones who ‘fall through the cracks’ at our regular secondary institutions. We must continue to ensure that they matriculate into HEART as we still have too many unemployable citizens.

In addition, the psychosocial condition of our youth has changed much since 1982. For example, many of our youth need vocational training and work but have not one iota of work ethic that enables them to add value to an employing organisation. If HEART does not address work ethic and values, we will turn out citizens who have a skill but who, by virtue of their low ethics and morals, are still unemployable.

I also strongly suggest that our educational system at all levels must aggressively empower our students with entrepreneurial thinking and strategies so that they are prepared not just to get a job but to create a job.

 

ii) Improve our societal justice mechanisms: A society dominated by feelings of injustice will always struggle to find sustainable growth and prosperity. For crime, violence, murder, corruption, and bandooloism are not exactly facilitators of growth and prosperity. The reality is that growth and prosperity for all needs an environment of peace, equal opportunity and fairness, which can only be built on a platform of justice. We must therefore continue to strengthen our court system and disband and significantly prune the bad branches of the middle to top echelon of the police force and let it spring up fresh again.

iii) Degarrisonise our political garrisons and get fresh non-tribal politicians with Jamaica First maturity to build the new Jamaica. We cannot continue to ignore or deliberately leave behind whole communities in our quest for national growth and prosperity. True economic growth and prosperity cannot be divorced from positive, upwardly mobile social growth and development. Deliberately or ignorantly leaving behind certain disadvantaged communities because they are political garrisons and safe seats is a dangerous if not downright stupid policy. Research has shown that these very communities host the violence-producers who in a flash of negative murderous action can erode or slow down economic growth.

Congratulations to EPOC, and thanks to the banks and others for their willingness to think again (the Bible would say ‘repent’) about the way they do business and make a change. You will have my 100 per cent support to match the internal ‘want to believe’, when you start putting action to these thoughts. Until then…

Copyright © 2019 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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