by Lipton Matthews
The most successful individual at the polls is not the reformist with visionary ideas regarding individual rights and human freedom, but the likeable candidate who is able to develop a message of caring that resonates with the populace.
However, a political system based solely on rhetoric will not produce tangible results. We Jamaicans are now reaping the disadvantages of such a system which we have been nurturing for years. We shouldn’t be quick to castigate our politicians because they do the bidding of most citizens. Like their constituents, parliamentarians emphasize welfare over wealth creation.
So any politician who is interested in retaining his seat in parliament will announce ‘pro-poor’ initiatives and conveniently denigrate wealthy Jamaicans. The ‘rich’ will be projected as the ones who caused the plight of the poor and not government’s deficiencies, onerous rules and inefficiencies. Their mantra is ‘the government is only here to help you; the rich become so through taking from you’. It’s always a great selling point and the populace tend to fall for it hook, line and sinker every election season.
Therefore when it became apparent that increasing bank fees were becoming a burden to consumers, political masterminds like Fitz Jackson and Karl Samuda quickly seized the opportunity to portray themselves as defenders of the poor by lashing private banks.
Banks like any other businesses are interested in maximizing profits and if a consumer has a problem with an outrageous fee, he has the right to acquire the services of a credit union or lobby for greater competition in the banking sector. Despite the findings of the Bank of Jamaica and a think tank which both show that local banking fees are in line with international trends the tirade against private banks continues.
How do we expect Jamaica to develop a business friendly environment when the demonization of private enterprise is a national past-time? The harsh reality is that we have failed to create a policy based political system; and we may not want to admit it, but no group is entitled to special treatment over another by the government, not even the poor.
Poor Jamaicans need an environment which will allow them to create wealth. Government welfare handouts have a poor track record in reducing poverty, it has not made a dent here in Jamaica. According to a study conducted by Georgia State University in the United States, many federal welfare programmes subsidize unproductive behaviour.
“At least in some earning ranges, the tax benefit system discourages low income people from investing in education and training, discourages labour supply, encourages fertility, and provides little incentive to get married or to remain so. To the extent that households are aware of and respond to these incentives, the tax benefit system creates poverty traps rather than promoting behaviours that allow families to escape poverty. “
…..wrote the authors from Georgia State University.
Furthermore, welfare is not a function of a legitimate administration, because theft is still a crime even if its sanctioned by government.
The government steals from us all the time. For example, the National Housing Trust’s (NHT) sole purpose is to provide its contributors with a source of funds to buy or build affordable housing. Government on the other hand has other ideas for our money. The populist mentality is strong and the theft of NHT funds by the present administration for the construction of homes for elderly or for registered pauper as suggested by the Opposition is unacceptable. The fact that the funds are being used with the best of intentions or for a noble purpose, doesn’t make it right. It is still theft. If you steal your neighbour’s money or property to pay for your child’s school fee it is still theft.
Private charities like Food for the Poor are assisting the less privileged and they should be encouraged. The people of Jamaica may want populist politicians who love the poor, but we require pragmatic leaders in order for Jamaicans to advance.