If Only We Recognised the Full Worth of Our Country…

Over the years several hotels and roadways have been built in Jamaica with much fanfare and hoopla regarding the amount of jobs expected to be generated for Jamaicans.

In the end what we have gleaned is that hardly any top management jobs actually go to Jamaicans. What has been reported is that by and large only low level manual labour positions and a few mid level spots here and there have gone to Jamaicans when those projects are initiated.

In addition to that, we hear many stories of indifference, disrespectful treatment, and poor salaries being meted out to our nationals.


Now I do understand quite well that some of our people are not exactly the easiest to get along with but that’s a different conversation for a different time.

The gist of the arguments surrounding this issue of Jamaicans being shut out of the upper level jobs from these deals is that our government seemingly does not demand those jobs as part of the negotiations when these deals are being negotiated.

Seemingly just getting a hotel property built on the island is seen as a victory by the Governments of both political parties.

via Flickr Commons

In the end those victories turn out to be  largely pyrrhic victories because of the lack of jobs for Jamaicans and the fact that for the most part, the proceeds from these hotel properties do not remain in Jamaica.

Case in point, when we borrow money from the Chinese ,we see  lots of Chinese nationals in supervisory positions doing much of the technical work, while Jamaicans  are hired to do manual low paying jobs on these sites.

The same is true of the Spanish properties built on the western end of the Island. 

There is a simple explanation for this. The Chinese maintain that they have 1.3 billion people, therefore, if you want to borrow their money their workers go where their money goes.


Conversely, our leaders fail to understand the value of our country as a destination. Sun, sea, clean air, beautiful beaches, good food and music all form brand Jamaica . That’s what we have to create our wealth.

At the same time our people must show more civic pride in the country we claim to love so much.

How about we stop saying with our mouths how patriotic we are and show some respect for the environment? How about when we drink from those plastic bottles we do not throw them in gullies and drains?

How about we stop defecating in the gullies, and while we are at it, lets stop defacing public buildings and monuments?

When investors come to do business in our Country we should demand the best deal for our people. They will acquiesce as long as our demands are not outlandish. They expect us to.

Over the decades our leaders have sold us short because of a lack of basic understanding of what our brand is and how it is supposed to empower our people. So they negotiate deals from positions of weakness. 
“Here just build we are just happy to have you”. – No !!!!

Investors coming into our country have already done their homework. They already have the market surveys which lays out for them different scenarios given worst and best case market conditions. Having done the risk assessment, they still decide to come.

That speaks to the quality of our country as an investment option, and as such, our leaders must aim to extract better concessions from potential investors, so that we don’t end up with a well furnished country while our people can only look on from the outside.
In fact that has been the contention of many Jamaicans for years. We must change that.

But there is another component to this issue.Over the years more and more tourists have come to Jamaica, yet the average person has benefited less and less from tourism, commensurate with the number of visitor arrivals. Jamaica should be extracting as much as possible from each and every visitor who graces our shores.The reverse seem to be true.

Several years ago I invested in a Barber shop. I did a simple survey of the amount of people who were coming through the doors each week and from those numbers I extrapolated on average, how much each individual was spending. I had much space, as I had gone into an under-served area and was able to get rental dirt cheap on a 10 year lease.


My investment wasn’t happenstance. I had spoken to law enforcement, business people  and other stake holders  with a view to getting a feel for whether the area was on the down-swing or whether it was on the upswing? I hired a staff of seven at the offset.

I found out from speaking to those stake holders that the area had bottomed out and that there were moves afoot to begin a revitalization effort with serious law enforcement as the tip of the spear. Nevertheless, landlords were quite happy to have tenants for however little they could get for commercial space at the time.
Having a desire to extract maximum returns on my investment for the life of my 10 year lease , I brainstormed on what else I  could add to the space which men would be drawn to, since they were already coming for haircuts?

Then it hit me, men are largely into toys. We are also more impulsive buyers than our female counterparts. The answer was easy. Electronics !!!
My small Electronics business was born. I was able to maximize on the amount of money I could extract from each person walking into my business place, using the same amount of space. A great way to start a new business without much of the risks outside those parameters.

So getting back to maximizing our efforts from what we already have in existence we have to make our product more attractive. I am sure I will be accused of not understanding just how attractive Jamaica is as a destination.

Some will cite reports indicating that Jamaica is among the top countries in which to invest.
That mindset takes us back to my initial observation that we do not extract enough concessions for our people so of course Investors are excited about coming to Jamaica to invest. Imagine if we truly understood the value of Jamaica and took steps to keep it pristine?


Added to the fact that we do not demand fully what we should  for our workers, we have unwittingly reduced the leverage we have to bargain, because of the high crime numbers.
This is an issue I speak of like a broken record. Over the years because of the burgeoning crime problem nations have issued travel advisories to their nationals who want to travel to Jamaica.

For too long we have scoffed at this fact, arguing that this happens to other countries and we need look no further than the increasing number of visitors gracing our shores each year.You know the spiel “ crime de ebri weh.”

I humbly submit that for the most part that’s all many of the tourists are doing, they are merely gracing our shores. When they do decide to stay they are shepherded into all inclusive resorts, funneling whatever monies they do spend into fewer and fewer hands.
Just ask the craft vendors or the people who have the quaint little restaurants across the island how much they are making from the tourist arrivals.

Even our own nationals returning to our country are turning more and more to all inclusive resorts for the duration of their stay out of concern for their safety. 


People are afraid to tell their relatives when they are visiting. Even when they do trust their relatives, they are afraid their relatives may unwittingly tell others they are visiting the island placing them in danger.

As  a result, when they  return home they now devise a series of measures to protect themselves – including: Not telling their relatives when they are coming to visit. Not telling where they are staying. Not telling when they are leaving. Not hanging out. Dressing down as much as possible, wearing shorts and exercise wear to show they have no money on their persons. Not wearing jewelry. Not flashing cash.Not renting cars. Hiding their expensive cell phones.

The long held belief that as long as you stay away from certain areas you are safe no longer holds true. As Jamaicans we all know what those certain areas were Rema, Tivoli, Jungle, Sufferers  Heights, Back-Bush, Flankers, Rivoli, Red Square,  Thawes Pen and the list goes on.

As Police officers we fought to contain crime as best we could. Cutting off the tentacles, but we knew that given time with the type of policies our leaders subscribed to and the size of our country, it was just a matter of time until we ran out of places where people could feel safe.

The tentacles of crime were destined to catch up with all of the country and given enough time will eventually suffocate the lifeblood from it.

Law enforcement continued to be reactive, a wack a mole type thing, orchestrated by the Island’s political leaders creating the present situation which obtains today

Imagine if the Island’s leadership fully understood how important it is to stamp out crime, or cared to, as against paying lip service to crime with the hope of holding on to political power?

By Mike Beckles – Check out his blog HERE

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