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Dr. Herbert Thompson, President of the Northern Caribbean University (NCU), has said that good governance entailed being responsive to present and future needs of society, ensuring that corruption was minimized, that the views of minorities were taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society were recognized.
Dr. Thompson, who was contributing to the panel discussion on ‘Good Governance’ held recently at Jamaica House, outlined ten problems, which he claimed, were “severely undermining” the achievement of good governance in Jamaica.
In a wide-ranging presentation entitled: ‘The Cultural Change Necessary for Achieving Good Governance in Jamaica’, Dr. Thompson cited the problem of “the barrel children backlash,” noting that, “we are now challenged to deal with the rebellion of that generation of children left to fend for themselves while their parents were overseas working for hard currency to take care of family needs”.
He also mentioned the twin evils of teenage pregnancy and single parent households, noting that exploited children were becoming mothers before they could possess the necessary values to pass on to their children. “No society can rise higher than the training and acculturation being delivered in the home of its citizens,” he noted.
According to Dr. Thompson the “deification of dons and community leaders” is another cause for concern. He said that persons have grown to worship dons as they provide lunch money and bus fare for the children of the community. He said the alternative would be to provide employment for these families to prevent them from “selling their souls”.
The existence of garrison communities was another problem, Dr. Thompson said. “The realities of inner-city hardships aside, there must be a reversal of the authority of area leaders and a weakening of their power bases. Failure to achieve these will leave in place a parallel system of governance, which effectively shuts out the state and leaves matters of security, law and order, economic management and the administration of justice to a few self-serving individuals,” he pointed out.
Dr. Thompson further pointed to the problem of squatting and land capture, which, over the last 25 years, have led to the erosion of values and sound cultural practices. “We most move away from the dangerous practice of making some of our citizens believe that persistent mendicancy is equal to joint ownership,” he stated.
Rounding out the top ten issues preventing the attainment of good governance in Jamaica, Dr. Thompson identified the country’s tolerance of roadblocks as acceptable protest; dancehall and the culture of violence; political parties connected to gangs; corruption in law enforcement; and crime and violence.
Whilst contending that good governance should be the expected norm, Dr. Thompson said the key players in the process should include the government, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), community associations, chambers of commerce, cooperatives, research institutes, religious leaders, financial institutions, the security forces, the media, lobbyists, multi-national corporations, and civil society.
He went on to recommend that through a process of consultation, and involving the members of the society, government should be mandated to put the systems/structures in place to ensure that the culture of good governance was maintained. He encouraged citizens at all levels of society to buy into the process and to demonstrate a level of ownership of the society.
The panel discussion was the second in a series organized by the Government Communication Group. ‘The Transforming landscape of Jamaica’s economy’ will be the topic for discussion at the next session to be held on January 12, 2006.