Sunday, May 26, 2013

Victims of our Own Aspiration (If it ain't broke)

When the Israelites enviously asked of God for a King because they wanted to be like the heathen nations, God gave them what they asked for. It is not a matter of the system that was in existence at the time was failing, or was not carrying out its mandate, it was a matter of them wanting something different and something everybody else had - they wanted to be like the heathen nations. So, a King they got and what a King he was, they were given Saul - a handsome and outstanding individual, a brilliant, affable man with the gift of using words quite capably. His story can be read in 1 Samuel Chapters 9 and 10. Now we need not be reminded of how horrible a leader he turned out to be, we all remember that from Sabbath/Sunday School. Now, I am not comparing any leader past or present that we have or may have had, I merely put this forward to prove a point, however, I am aware that this can be open to various interpretations and that I happily welcome. Anyway...

Jamaica is no different, it can be argued that we have found favour in the eyes of the Lord and are therefore blessed beyond compare, we have far more then many countries greater in size and population than us can boast. If in case you are unaware of the numerous blessings we as Jamaicans are given I will not remind you - too bad if you were living under a rock and missed the pass 50 years of our existence as an independent nation. We have however squandered those blessings time and time again, Jamaica should have been leaps and bounds ahead of where it is today. But we somehow were able to waste the opportunity of a lifetime to achieve Vision 2030 by 1970. How a country can pull that off is beyond expression - words can explain anything under the sun but can't express everything, that's about the only shortcoming words find themselves with, one would be lying if the same were to be said about our Government. Moving on...

Proverbs 29:18 and 19 of the Good News Translation sums up pretty well our predicament and is a brilliant launchpad into my article, it reads as follows: "18: A nation without God's guidance is a nation without order. Happy are those who keep God's law! 19: You cannot correct servants just by talking to them. They may understand you, but they will pay no attention."

The Government has chosen to revisit the sweetheart deal the teachers have as far as study leaves and other leaves are concerned read. I will not argue against the fact that this deal is quite an enviable one for other Public Sector workers and the teachers 'get weh' as put in our terms by getting such an arrangement. I will not dispute that because I am in agreement, however to put things into context, our Education System has seen a steady decline in quality and standards since independence, teachers are faced with the effects of a nation turning its back on God and they have to deal with that first-hand yet we expect them to work magic. Others have also pointed out that the teachers have been given such a deal because they now work at far less than the international average pay and at even far below international working standards. Now, the government has (as it has proven in the past to have a tendency to do) unilaterally decided to change those arrangements and cite 'austerity measures' as the reason for doing so.So...

Our beloved Government has chosen to correct its servants by talking to them, an act which Solomon in all his wisdom spoke out against in no uncertain terms in the above passage, clearly, the teachers understand the demands of the Government, after all they are teachers and I think the ability to understand simple directives is second nature to them at least if it isn't a quality seen in the other areas of our under-productive and overly-bloated Public Sector. However, they will not accept the argument the government is putting forward as justification for the move and rightly so. In countries such as Norway and the Bahamas leaders have opted to take pay-cuts in solidarity with those who they are asking to do the same, in the U.S.A. Jamaica's beloved Barack Obama decided to return $20,000 of his salary, I agree this can be argued to be political posturing to seem caring and concerned. Whether real or fake, these are qualities leaders should exhibit despite the circumstances that lead them to do so. Now if the teachers were to take industrial action for the rest of the year I would happily support such a move.

Instead of our Government freezing our salaries and cutting/limiting entitlements unilaterally, it would have augured quite nicely for the current administration had they said, "My fellow 'Jumaicans', in light of the current crises we are faced with as a nation my cabinet and I saw it fit to take a massive slash in salary (*stressing 'massive cut' and 'salary', conveniently disregarding allowances*) of 5% in solidarity with those who we are asking to do the same." The 5% would have gotten past the masses of un-educated that eat out of the government's hands. But the gesture would be the salient point. Which brings me to this next point...

Coming out of the last set of 'wage talks' with the government, Public Sector workers failed to predict and prepare for the "three-card" tricks the government had up its sleeves and happily rolled the 'loaded' dice ignorant of what was to come. The Unions, who ironically are set up to fight for workers' rights accepted the false promises of the government and gave away their birthright for not a bowl of lentil soup but empty promises which unlike getting a bowl of lentil soup, in essence works out to us paying to give up all, so we lose twice.

At the risk of damaging the tone of my article I will continue.

The per kilometre cost of the mileage allotted to travelling officers was increased by 17% a whole one-fifth. So, technically a travelling officer could get the same amount of work done with the same amount of travelling put in and be paid a whole 17% more on his mileage, or at least that was what was understood. This is where the under-handed, three-card tricks up the government's sleeve came into play once more, many departments were directed to strictly limit travelling by the "bevehicled" among us to as little as 100 Km/month. Now, it is beyond me how the prior levels of productivity (whether good or bad) are to be maintained with such knee-jerk measures. It is a popular belief that in times of shortages of money, expenditure should be cut/limited, this is and should be the last resort it is the wise investment (which is spending) of money on which emphasis is to be placed. For the sowing of a seed is in essence spending of the seed which in turn presents a return on investment in the future of that spent seed. I am no 'Doctor of Economics' and that came without much effort. In these times efficiency is what is to be stressed, apparently not on the list of 'things to do' for this administration. If I used to claim 500km/month as travelling, under the previous 30/Km I would have been paid $15,000 for that month please bear in mind that is just compensation for the work the officer uses his vehicle to carry out, and is in no way beneficial to the officer. Now, if that were to be calculated at the current 17% increase 35/Km then I would have been paid $17,500 for that month, now pay attention, the masterful sleigh of hands by our 'Three-card' government is so slick you need to pay very close attention to see it: now, with mileage restricted to as little as 100Km/month, we cannot claim more than 100Km, now let us multiply that 100 by 35 and we get the wonderful sum of $3,500!!! Remarkable savings on the part of the Government but let us see how that works out, shall we? Immediate knee-jerk 'savings' more often than not are always guaranteed to cost us far more in the future, and let me draw once again on the timeless wisdom of Solomon from Proverbs 29:18 "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he" KJV. And on that note...

Jamaicans rolled the loaded dice in 2008 that promised people-power and prosperity that returned people-problems and poverty shrouded in the beguiling isea of change, well 'better' has finally come!

I conclude....