Pockets of excellence in a sea of underperformance

Crisis sign

Jamaica seems to be cursed with under performance in economics, crime, national security, healthcare, agriculture, education, public transportation, and manufacturing among other areas since Britain granted the country independence in 1962. It is not that there are not pockets or bouts of excellence in these areas, but they are insufficient and infrequent to sustain the country’s progress toward economic growth and development. The green and orange politicians claim colossal successes whenever their party forms the government over the past 60 years. However, the quality life of the average Jamaican seems to be in constant depression. The average Jamaican struggles to survive so over 20,000 of them immigrate annually to the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. Therefore, Jamaican politicians are delusional when it comes to success because they continue to wreck the lives their fellow citizens while claiming significant achievements.

Despite this underperformance, there are pockets of excellence created by Jamaicans throughout the country. These Jamaicans (and their institutions) perform at such a very high level that they would excel in whichever country they were residing. Knutsford Express is an examplar of a private company that provides a world class public transportation service. In manufacturing two excellent performers that readily comes to mind are LASCO and Grace Kennedy. If Jamaica had 10 more high performing companies like Grace Kennedy and 10 more like LASCO, the country would not have a flat line/minimal growth economy. The work of the Early Childhood Commission has demonstrated phenomenal positive changes in the development of toddlers when their mothers are trained how to effectively nurture and provide proper nutrition for them. These are a just few examples of the pockets of excellence that currently exists in Jamaica.

Professor Orlando Patterson of Harvard University has provided one explanation for the paradox of the pockets of excellence in a sea of underperformance that exist. He argues that Jamaica unlike Barbados did not capture the performance excellence /successfully applied expertise from the British. Jamaicans can tell you what to do because they possess the knowledge, but they cannot execute or apply this knowledge competently to achieve economic growth and development. Barbados has retained the British institutional culture of performance excellence which Jamaica is still struggling to master. Whether one agrees with this view or not, one thing is certain, Jamaica must learn from high performing Jamaicans and their high performing institutions and diffuse these successful ways of doing throughout the country to achieve economic growth and development.  This requires an effective long-term public-private partnership in an enabling environment that entices the many skilled Jamaicans who migrate annually to remain at home. We must improve the quality of governance and training, improve our attitude towards work, entrepreneurship, and investments, diversify the economy, improve wages, and provide a safe society to successfully achieve our national goals. The fact that remittances annually provide more money to the Jamaican economy than any of its sectors is an indicator of failure rather than success. Jamaica can do significantly better.

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