BY R.D. MILLER
The election bag:
On September 3, 2020, the island of about three million people will decide to replace the locks or give back the keys and what party color they will hang for at least four more years as voters contemplate countless economic issues.
Economic pressure, unanswered promises, growing or shrinking economy, high or low unemployment, climate change, economic mobility, stagnation, who is less or more corrupted- high, low crime, how many murdered under what party, prosperity, poverty, a widening gap between the have vs. have-nots, high or reduced taxes.
COVID-19 Pandemic, accountability of funds, old-new manifesto, but who is accurately counting depending on one’s political side. They will perceive these issues through the political glass, either half-full or empty.
Because of concern amid COVID-19, many voters and party officials questioned the timing, but prime minister Andrew Holness of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) seized the moment observing favorable poll numbers called for an election hoping for another 4 years to extend and tackle the socio-economic and crime dents that have been inside these communities’ neglected paint shop for many years.
An earlier Nationwide radio poll noted that about 64% believe that the Holness administration is corrupted, but maybe better to manage corruption. This report is suggestive in that, it is better to have these foxes guard the hen-house. This election continues to be about had they, should have, could have, maybe, and perhaps, and the past.
Once the whistle of the election rang, the two leaders, the players, immediately activated on a non-stop color media bliss taunting the progress or lack thereof. COVID-19 social distancing as it seems relegated to the back burner of a nationwide political campaign.
Unfortunately, no matter the circumstances, justification, rationalization, or excuses, bad things invariably follow if the life of a country is put at risk for personal gain.
This election debates for changing the economic tires, refueling these communities, repairing broken parts to get one of these two drivers the winning flag may simply come down to what side telling the truth or to a greater degree better at covering up the truth as the island battle for its soul consistency looking good governance.
Jamaica’s local politics typically operate like a contact sport where only the fittest survive. After the political colorful game is over, the economic strain will continue with injured community players sidelined from lost jobs to navigating students who may face distance learning in rural areas without resources.
Maybe same cars; different colors?
Whether Dr. Peter Phillips, the opposition leader of the (People National Party (PNP) agrees with the election call. It is a delicate balance asking locals who have been neglected to purchase another ticket regarding their economic future. Both vessels with an upgraded soundtrack arguing better days are ahead while accusing the other are in the same murky water.
Any party that loses is more than likely, that leadership will take the entire crew into an iceberg. The tribal toxicity in these campaigns leaves little room for compromise, even if the messenger on the other side has a good plan.
For the leader that will emerge, rebuilding will continue to be a challenge. COVID-19, economic stagnation, crime, poverty, and yes, COVID-19 Blame Game Is Going to Get Uglier as this pandemic in an election will ruthlessly be exploited at the cost of people’s lives.
The pandemic also provides a cushion to deflect the direct economic decline that has seen several local businesses closed, massive layoffs as the service industry took a direct hit from reduced vacations, which is a vital portion of the island’s GDP. But in all fairness, it has caused a global shutdown of the global economies, but it also exposed how fragile these shores were.
Today, likely voters are stuck between a rock and a complex place. It may be from COVID-19 fear, easy access to polling stations for seniors, or from abandoned hope and trust may stay home. Jamaica will rise and can do better, but whose less tainted, or carries a permanent stain to continue navigating these ostentatious waters, roads, and hills.
However, this fight should be about the nation’s future, environmental issues, actual trade deficit, balance sheet, investments, especially for the youths, and other key economic indicators for Jamaica’s real economic stability that will benefit all.
Will everybody love and benefit from the finished piece?
The reality is as it seems; one side blemished, the other imperfect, while the downtrodden are constantly being squeezed from decades of promises, distrust, and inadequate management, lack of up upward mobility as many argued that only political leaders seem to be the exclusive ones getting ahead
An incumbent has an upper hand, and people may stick to the putrefaction because weeding through political tribalism is difficult and where governmental power is seldom based on real accomplishments, but personal time served in a cabinet and popularity, resources to paint a better picture than the reality.
This showdown may not come down to who won the debates; or command of what the nation’s needs are. The sole question communities should ask during this political showdown is, are they better off today, or foresee a future for the next generation. However, this election may come down to one issue, “safety,” which is a public health problem.
What is certain, the party that wins will need to have a majority because there is no room for compromise, even if the messenger on the other side may have a friendly message. It is more than likely, the losing leader will take his ship into an iceberg with down-ballot candidates?
The missing color:
It seems, “Out of Many One People” get cast aside when voters are whipped into a desperate frenzy, pitting communities against each other for temporary feel-good while the youths, downtrodden, teachers, law enforcement, public safety victims of crime, small businesses, and a vanished more educated middle class inside the body shop hoping someone fixes their dents from years of neglect and bumps.
After all colorful battles, these political parties should operate like primary colors where leaders can combine both sides to produce an excellent portrait. Continuous political fighting only makes it difficult to govern and paints a picture for a more promising future.
Jamaica’s prosperity is not the best beat on the street though it has its cultural significance; it is a single unemployed mother, dad, sons, daughters, cousins, grandparents, uncle on the hill debating if they should dance because after the music stops, what next?
“The rhythms being played may change, but on same vinyl, one argued.
Many argue that politics there, and in other poverty-stricken and developing countries, is like some aspects of the Chinese investments. They come to extract the minerals, and other natural resources and return cheap goods. However, what will change, not much.
Often only the rich, well-connected, and the politicians will continue to get ahead. Many will claim patriotism from their gated community, and continue to influence the political system to protect their profit margin.
Voting should be for the future, and not for temporary jobs or an overnight financial handout. In the long run, what about tuition, school supplies for your child’s education because you can’t announce an election to be compensated.
In this early stage, the island has made some strides in maintaining the pandemic, but leaders must be honest with themselves and open a genuine debate from managing COVID-19, Tests, Treatment, and Trace (TTT) that will be critical from the reported uptick.
Hoping for a new blend:
One glowing new color based on local reports, more than a few women have entered this election on both sides, and whoever is successful must demand a seat at the prime minister’s decision table.
Women are under-represented, not only in Jamaica, but several other poor and developing countries across key positions to make critical changes from elected offices, civil services, private sector, or academia, scholars have noticed.
This political election will not severely lessen COVID-19 the next day, reduce crime; create affordable education, violence against women, better medical care, lower unemployment, increase bed space or new necessary equipment to safeguard lives.
I hope after these colorful events, all people can find a combination of colors to renovate the nation as the region continues navigating the rough tides. It will take more than party devotion for this beautiful island to see hope over fear, fact over fiction.
Jamaica is not perfect and remains a vibrant place with hope and possibilities, but people must seek change from the bottom up and not the other way around. Regardless of what color wins, the nation must deal with several ignored rusts that yarns for a new upward mobility pain for sustainable development; transforming the nation.
An election is like art; it should create wonderful memories. As this shore tries to pick an image for brighter days between this rock and a hard place regardless of who has the next paintbrush, they must stay hopeful until everyone can genuinely enjoy these recycled portraits, add their color for both the country and personal prosperity.