by Lipton Matthews
Transformational leadership has become a rather popular topic these days, but we often ignore the importance of effective ‘followership’ in determining the quality of a leader.
Jamaica’s current state is akin to a company in which the shareholders and employees alike have come to expect sub-par performance from management. Our citizens’ apathetic attitudes (and emigration) has resulted in declining profits, lower returns on investments for shareholders and massive lay-offs for employees, since a failing and loss-making company will no longer be able to afford wages.
Operating country is however more complicated than running a business. Therefore, we should expect that the criteria for selecting public officials to be more rigorous. Unfortunately, this is not the case when partisan politics trumps meritocracy.
For example some years ago, a Gleaner Editorial entitled ‘Pickersgill’s contempt’ gave an apt description of the arrogance of the then Transport Minister, the Hon. Robert Pickersgill, who is still a cabinet minister of Climate Change. The Article went on to read: “After several years in government, as a Cabinet Minister in different ministries, Robert Pickersgill has yet to distinguish himself either as a performer or visionary.
We know that some parliamentarians are repeat failures. Phillip Paulwell has failed project after failed project, as has Roger Clarke. Yet we continue to elect them along largely political partisan leanings, and when they inevitably fail to deliver we wallow in self-pity.
We have become so apathetic we don’t make a fuss over inefficiency and waste either. Let’s look at one government agency. The Tourism Product Development Company among many is not efficient, but when it’s reported in the media that the agency only spent 15.2 per cent of its capital budget on special projects for the period 2013/2014 up to January 2014, with the majority of its funding going to salaries. Jamaicans, public outcry is necessary.
Unfortunately, however, this is Jamaica and the board members have not been fired. Notwithstanding, nothing is more disheartening than the public’s attitude to the parlous state of the Capital Development Fund. The fund had assets of about US$4b. In the early years its proceeds were used to finance tertiary education, but overall most of its assets were wasted on imprudent financial investments. Again the Jamaican people have remained silent. Perhaps it is out of ignorance why we are silent on such issues.
I will say it outright, the standards of Jamaicans are low, with low expectations of our elected leaders. We can continue to lament the present state of affairs, and lambast Pickersgill and his comrades for their ineffectiveness through the written word and fora such as Right From Yaad, but we must not forget the fact that it is our apathy which created the present situation. Maybe it’s time for Jamaicans to take a page out of the Tea Party’s book.