Sweet, Sweet Jamaica: A Country of Untapped Potential

Jamaica is my home. There is nothing more comforting than living in a country filled with natural beauty and warm and friendly people. On the flip side, however, is the reality that Jamaica’s beauty is being overshadowed by inept leaders, a poor economic climate, and a lack of opportunities for youth. The Jamaican dollar now stands at JA$116 to US$1 with the possibility of it reaching JA$120 to US$1 before the end of 2015. It pains my heart to know that the potential of this country is being wasted in the hands of leaders who are more concerned with keeping up appearances than meeting the real needs of our people. The voices of our youth are seldom heard and taken seriously. I don’t intend to leave my country, but I am troubled by the fact that I see no hope on the horizon.

Our Inept Leaders

There are several examples of mismanagement of the country’s resources by our leaders. Two particular examples presently come to mind. The first is the purchase of Outameni by the National Housing Trust (NHT) with taxpayer’s money. One would hope that the property would have been purchased to create housing solutions for Jamaicans. However, it seems to be more of an under the table deal that won’t benefit tax payers in any way. One hundred and eighty million ($180 million) of taxpayers dollars were spent to purchase this property. Let’s see what happens within the next two years. Will it still be a barren piece of land or will some type of development that benefits the poor and middle class be erected?

The second is the flurry of road construction that occurred to facilitate the visit of United States President Barack Obama. I do appreciate the fact that money has to be spent when such an important public figure visits. However, this flurry of road work with money that the country doesn’t have was ridiculous. Our leaders are ashamed to present the reality we have to face each day with our poor roads. That money could have been better spent creating sustainable job opportunities for young people.

The issues with our leaders isn’t limited to present circumstances, however. Leaders with a narrow minded perspective have caused this country’s economic downfall. Whenever a party comes into power, most of what the previous party began is thrown out the window even if what was there was good. So, it’s a perpetual cycle of starting from scratch unnecessarily. It is also true that over the years our leaders have depended too much on foreign imports of goods that we produce right here. Instead of creatively expanding our export market, our leaders chose to increase our import bill. It is, therefore, no surprise that we are in our present predicament.

Our Poor Economic Climate

When someone tells you that the Jamaican dollar is now $116 to US$1, it is not a statement that should be taken lightly. The sliding dollar means a higher cost of living on already inadequate salaries. The poor continue to get poorer. The government should be commended for implementing more policies for encouraging small business growth. However, there are some young people who find it difficult to set up their businesses due to lack of funding and the tedious process required to set up the business. Jobs are very hard to find and the unemployment rate continues to increase.

A Lack of Opportunities for Youth

To be fair, the government has attempted to improve the education system by opening more schools and ensuring that children get the best quality teachers. They have also provided more tertiary financing opportunities through loans, scholarships and bursaries. However, when a young person graduates from a tertiary institution there are limited options in the job market. I know of people who have been jobless for years upon graduating. There is something wrong with this picture and I don’t think the government has found the right solution.

I love my beautiful country. It is a nice place to live because of the people and the natural beauty. However, it is also a depressing place to be when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

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