My good friend Dr Henley Morgan wrote an article in the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday, April 4, titled ‘Cabinet Reshuffle’. He amusingly began by saying, “Reshuffle… sounds like the name of a dance; one in which one switches partners but the dancers on the floor remain the same.” Ironically, there’s a song titled Cupid Shuffle, by artiste Cupid, written by Bryson Bernard, and appears on the 2007 studio album Time for a Change. A verse of which says:
“I just let the music come from my soul
So all of my people can stay on the floor (oh, oh)
They got a brand new dance (come on)
You gotta move your muscle
Brand new dance, it’s called the Cupid shuffle”
Whenever he’s artistically represented, Cupid is depicted as a baby-like creature who shoots love arrows at people causing them to fall in love, whether they like it or not. Our prime minister, once the baby of the Jamaica Labour Party, but now its big leader, shot his reshuffle arrows a few days ago in an attempt to make sure all of his ‘people can stay on the floor’ — a move which Dr Morgan read as a ‘consolidation of power’. Only time will tell as to whether or not the people involved will fall in love with their positions. I hope they do, and I hope the shuffle (reshuffle) will turn out to be a masterstroke by our new-era prime minister and not a mistake as some are suggesting.
Reactions to the shuffling of his Cabinet have been varied. Some say it’s the same old deck of cards, nothing will be new. Others say perhaps we can put people in positions for which they are better suited. Pre-shuffle rumours that then Audley Shaw would be amongst those to be switched from his portfolio have proven to be true. Was “Man A Yaad” viewed as a failure at Heroes’ Circle? Some seem intent to cast that aspersion.
I like Shaw’s response to the aspersions. The Observer of March 27, 2018 quoted him as declaring: ‘I will perform anywhere I am assigned!’ You gotta love that. Performance is what is certainly needed from Shaw, as this could be his most significant assignment to date.
Outside of the foundation areas on which strong nations are built, such as family, education, health, values and attitudes, which ensure order, security and good governance, the major focus has to be industry, commerce and agriculture. After all, we are not trying to produce a nation of law-abiding poor people. The aim is progress and prosperity.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has committed into the hands of Minister Audley Shaw these vital areas of the growth agenda for Jamaica. He must be convinced that if the focus on winning the battle on crime bears the expected fruit then the country will need an aggressive “Man A Yaad” spirit for the growth phase. The current demands of the given portfolio require Shaw to now show that he is not a man who “run around di yaad, but a man who run di yaad”.
If we intend to earn our way out of poverty then this is the engine of growth along with tourism and bauxite to build the new Jamaica.
Can ‘Man A Yaad’ bring real prosperity?
We must look at what we have to work with or, as we would say, it’s time “fi tun wi han’ mek fashion”. That proverb really gets at the heart of the issue. It’s time to stop complaining about what may be lacking and ask: What do we have? It’s going to take creativity, ingenuity and boldness to grow our way out of the economic doldrums. A nuh bwoy wuk; is a real big man ting! Real ‘Man A Yaad’ ting!
Can Shaw step up to the crease and turn the game around? If he can, then his Man A Yaad name will take on real significance. For his new ministry is really what runs and provides for the’ yaad’ called Jamaica.
This Cabinet reshuffle, and the way we govern, especially in key ministries such as the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), reminds me of our cricket culture. Many West Indian batsmen, particularly in more recent times, have shown a propensity to only go after the big hits; wanting to make centuries comprised only of fours and sixes. We are not so interested in running the singles and twos. In this way we have left a lot of unscored runs on the field. In the same way, successive governments have spent a lot of time and energy chasing mainly the big, multi-billion-dollar investments — the foreign ones in particular — all while the micro, small and medium opportunities have been largely ignored.
We can no longer afford this approach. The Bible says that we should not despise the day of small beginnings. Many of the Fortune 500 companies that you see today, that employ thousands of people across continents, started as small family-owned businesses. Walmart started as just a small ‘5 & 10 store’ in a small town you’ve probably never heard of — Bentonville, Arkansas. But Sam Walton had an idea: Lower prices coupled with better customer service than his competitors. Less than 50 years later, Walmart is a global brand.
It’s a classic example of taking what you have and making the most of it. Here, in Jamaica, we need to look at everything in the country that grows, moves, flies, or swims and ask: What can be done with this? Especially those things that will give us a competitive advantage. Are we making the most of our honey, our ginger, our bamboo, cassava, or our well-known herbs? Is there a niche market product to be developed? A mineral to be extracted? By the way, what of our rare earth elements that were discovered and so boldly proclaimed under the previous Government? Can the new minister activate them? Can we tek bush and mek medicine? The nation’s prosperity is in our hands, but we keep looking for it outside and complaining about what we lack. Success never comes from what we don’t have, but from what we do.
Of course, it is going to take radical thought, out-of-the-box thinking, paradigm shifts, even quantum leaps into new ways of doing things.
One of the greatest challenges that Shaw will have to meet is how to get financing into the hands of the medium, small and micro enterprises (MSME). This issue has been a long-standing sore point despite the fact economists the world over agree that the key to success in any economy is growth in the MSME sector. Therein lies the potential for increasing employment, increasing production, and earning potential. But if we continue to focus all our attention on a few specific industries we will keep missing the opportunities in many others.
Jamaica’s future is around this issue of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries. MICAF needs a driver, a visionary and bold motivator. It needs someone strong in strategic planning. It needs someone who will put people to work!
How long, for example, will we continue to sustain and even grow the numbers of young unemployed males who congregate on our street corners with nothing to do? When will Jamaica really become manufacturing-friendly, service-oriented, production-driven, and wealth-creation conscious? When will we harness the creative and innovative nature of our people and provide them with affordable venture capital and widespread development incubator framework to empower them to achieve for prosperity?
Perhaps we need more than an Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) or Economic Growth Council (EGC). Perhaps it’s time to establish a Wealth Creation Task Force to focus on ideas for the average Jamaican. It should be given the authority to remove the bureaucratic red tape and hindrances that have naturally developed in our governance systems — which hamper and discourage the average Jamaican from creating wealth for himself and for our gross domestic product.
The importance of land
Consider the following statement by Australian economic and political commentators Frank Stilwell and Kirrily Jordan: “Land is the most basic of all economic resources, fundamental to the form that economic development takes. Its use for agricultural purposes is integral to the production of the means of our subsistence. Its use in an urban context is crucial in shaping how effectively cities function and who gets the principal benefits from urban economic growth. Its ownership is a major determinant of the degree of economic inequality.”
Any Government that does not understand the importance of using land to prosper its people and economy will continue to miss the mark. The acres of idle lands in both government and private hands should be brought under productivity for a nation desiring to achieve prosperity. We need a carefully thought out plan and executed process to put many idle youth and poor families, both in inner cities and rural areas, who are willing to work on leased land for personal and national good.
A serious and well-thought-out process would need a support mechanism as the former Agricultural Marketing Corporation to buy and market produce of the farmers to ensure they get the best prices for their output. This ought not to be left to large private conglomerates as their primary motivation is different, and hence not always to best benefit the farmers. Government must ensure justice either by regulations and/or creating framework to assist the weak and vulnerable.
These and similar areas are where the Church can be asked to play a role to keep operational costs low and to ensure the highest benefit to those being served. Agriculture is a lifeline for our nation if effectively utilised. We need to utilise technology for best yields and, of course, maximise yields without soil or forest depletion.
Prosperous nation needs prosperity thinking
Prosperity thinking looks for something in or out of everything. It always asks, what can I do with this? For example, we dump thousands of old tyres annually, but we should be asking what can we make with these? Some countries have utilised them for better roads and as reefs to restore the ocean ecology. Are we thinking like this? Are we asking prosperity questions?
You never get answers to questions you do not ask. Keys to success is to ask questions, seek to discover, and knock for doors to be opened. A person driven by these three things will find it hard to fail in life; achievements become easy.
I strongly recommend every citizens to read and give your child of reading and comprehension age a copy of the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. The principles of financial responsibility that it teaches are important constructs to learn at an early age.
The new Jamaica that we all desire must find a way to transform its citizens from consumers to entrepreneurs, and from violence producers to peacemakers. This must happen at the earliest of ages.
Minister Shaw’s assignment is most central and vital to this. Shaw now holds the key to national growth and development. I suggest both his disparagers and well-wishers pray hard for him. For if Minister Shaw fails, no prosperity will be in sight.
Shaw, make this your finest hour and greatest contribution. The weight of the nation’s development has been entrusted to you. The important role and value of the responsibility must not be misunderstood, undervalued or diminished.
This is an important conversation that we must continue. So, whether you are a disparager or well-wisher, join in.
Copyright © 2018 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.