Columns

'Man A Yaad' must be a man of action!

Al Miller

Sunday, April 15, 2018

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I continue the dialogue from last week, 'Shaw shuffle: Mistake or masterstroke?' because so much of the nation's future rests on what he does with the portfolio now entrusted to him. He needs all our ideas and support.

Despite our personal views on Audley Shaw, or the Government, or Opposition, the reality is we all should work to make our nation great, successful and prosperous. If Minister Shaw fails, either from his own performance or lack of support, it is Jamaica that loses. But, if he succeeds, Jamaica wins.

Let's engage and make Jamaica win.

I believe Shaw is the kind of person who would welcome public input in a framework to be energised for maximum productivity by the greatest number of people. Critical to Shaw's success is the ability to mobilise all able-bodied individuals towards productivity. All the ideas to develop all the industries and items of commerce do not reside in only the places where we have always looked. All avenues, from everywhere, are needed now for greatest productivity.

The [new] ideas

I suggested last week in my column the possible need for a Wealth Creation Task Force to capture all the ideas, filter and furnish to the minister. Government in a developing country like ours, searching for prosperity, should pay a team of innovative thinkers to wrestle with this question about everything in the country: What can be done with this? — 'This' is indicative of some good or service, some industry, commerce, agro or ocean product.

Last week I also alluded to the fact that the moment we get crime and violence under control – and for all our sakes, we must — the most important ministry in Jamaica's growth agenda will be the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries. This is an indisputable fact. After all, we are not trying to produce a nation of law-abiding poor people. The aim is progress and prosperity.

Tools to get it done

Shaw is charged with an awesome responsibility. I believe he is good for the task given the discipline he showed with the finance portfolio. We all know it was not his primary strength, but he did what was necessary. He built on the foundation laid by Peter Phillips and did not allow politics to change the plan/design/blueprint. He kept the ship steadily through rough seas.

Raulston Nembhard in his column on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, titled 'Audley 'Man A Yaad' Shaw is an unsung patriot' said it well when he wrote: “...in February 2016 the JLP won power and Shaw once again was given the finance portfolio. His predecessor, Dr Peter Phillips, had already done the heavy lifting prescribed by the IMF… Shaw not only built on where the PNP left off, but with the Government pursued the path of growth with a greater alacrity than had been seen before.”

Minister Shaw exercised the kind of discipline some of us didn't think he possessed. It is this kind of discipline and drive that the prime minister must have seen in him to invite him to now bring that focus and tenacity to this powerful engine for national growth.

Shaw's new assignment also needs discipline, focus, and negotiating skill. It requires the ability to tread carefully so as not to cause any derailment or setbacks. And yet it needs a more aggressive approach.

He will need good advisors who have a genuine love of nation above self and, in particular, ones who can look past sectarian interests. This is where he must take charge as “Man A Yaad' and organise, set order, show direction, and call every family member living in di yaad to take responsibility and play their part.

Shaw has to do what others have talked about for years but never did. He needs to establish some task forces, not “talk forces”. These teams would not only be tasked to develop new ideas for productivity, but also ensure that the new ideas are actioned.

Action, action, action

I am reminded of the words of a wise politician who ruled Israel who said in Proverbs 14:23: “Hard work brings profit; mere talk leads to poverty.”

A weh you seh, wise politician nuh deh a Jamaica? Behave yourself; fi wi Parliament full of those. Let me hear an Amen nuh?

Seriously speaking we cannot blame our politicians only for being mere talkers, for oftentimes most of us talk about what we can do but never do anything. Given that the proverb is true, this could account for why we are where we are, both on the personal and national levels.

For Minister Shaw's shuffle to prove to be a masterstroke “action, action, action” has to be the name of his game.

I believe it's imperative that we develop and maximise all areas for growth in a joined-up approach that includes aspects of our creative industries such as our music, fashion, film and animation, arts and entertainment. There should be a theatre strip along the tourist corridor between MoBay and Port Antonio utilising the abundance of our local talent. A Jamaican/Caribbean food strip along the same corridor could be a step in the right direction to create opportunities for our many talented chefs and food service practitioners. Our Christian entertainment industry must be developed and joined up with our religious tourism. We need hoteliers and hotels that cater primarily to this huge untapped market of over 15 billion per year. We could turn Jamaica into a gospel music mecca of the world, given our strong Christian and reggae music heritage. This could easily double our tourism product.

There is room for the development of our service industries and cottage industries. Our agriculture and agro-processing industries should be maximised to their fullest potential. This is what makes the Scientific Research Council and the research labs of our universities crucial.

The energetic Shaw has a critical role to play in this Jamaican prosperity.

Play our part

Shaw must help move the nation from a fearful fixation with crime and violence to an excited expectation of development and prosperity. However, it has to be an 'us' thing.

Minister Shaw needs an energetic and responsive private sector. He needs a supportive financial sector — with a different attitude than currently exists. We need a financial sector that thinks national development and wealth creation for customers; earning not only through unproductive car loans and fees but coming alongside the customer willing to hold their hands and grow them from micro to small, to medium to large.

He needs the new minister of finance to cut the banks some slack, ease the oppressive and excessive taxes, insure their development loans, and incentivise them to help create a robust growth environment.

He needs a motivated people with a mind to work. Our current generational cohorts are not so socialised. As a result I have been calling for an agency charged with the responsibility for social mobilisation, behavioural change, uniting the nation around a cause that inspires them to build and work for their own prosperity.

Minister Shaw's responsibility in this team is both high-performance and maintaining the trust of the other members of this team. I suggest Minister Shaw should target his fellow Members of Parliament, on both sides, and demand from them a comprehensive constituency 'industry, commerce, agriculture /fisheries' project that would have as its outcome the transformation of unemployed constituents into producers, nation-builders and valued contributors.

At the same time Shaw must ensure that we do not sell our birthright as we have historically done with sugar, bauxite, tourism, insurance, the financial sector and other areas critical to our nationhood. We own very little and so much is sent overseas. Future development of all that remains in our hands should be based on partnerships that ensure Jamaican involvement to the best national benefit.

Enough wealth is in this country; if creatively harnessed and managed, that can be directed in a manner that allows balanced, justified partnerships with all investor interest.

Shaw must unashamedly take a page from the Donald Trump manual and declare Jamaica's interest secured first. Without it prosperity will again elude us.

Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or pastormilleroffice@gmail.com.

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