Playing to our Strengths

Jamaica’s international PR took a bad battering in May, but our athletes still continue to make us proud around the world. Our music is still iconic. And while there are as-nice beaches elsewhere in the Caribbean and around the world (I think the beaches in Thailand and South Pacific beat ours to tell you the truth), ours are certainly world-class. Likewise, it’s not like our tourism product is a juvenile and muddled mess, though it is sitting on top of a tinderbox…

But as we push towards increasing investments into technology and outsourcing solutions, we need to play to our collective strengths as a people and a nation, and not give in to self-destructive individualism. I don’t think it’s necessary to shoot for the stars if we’re going to tear everything else down to get there. We need to recognize our inherent cultural attitudes and strengths, and not to ape other places with different social, historical and cultural identities.

So much has been said about the paths forged by Jamaica and Singapore since the 1960′s, when both countries gained independence. And there’s been so much nonsense being said about Singapore being under a dictatorship in order to achieve what it has. Why do people complain about a no-chewing gum law when the crime rate in Jamaica is spiralling out of control, with corrupt officials and politicians calling all the shot in a zero-sum game of “leadership”?

But I’m not going on about politics in a science blog. The fact of the matter is that, as a people, we are not Singaporeans, so let’s stop copying them. We’re trying to get tech investments here. And why shouldn’t we? We’re near to the largest tech market in the USA. We’re English-speaking. We’re proudly not a dictatorship. So why hasn’t it happened? Why would investors go halfway across the world instead? Mind you, we still get some good and decent investments, and we’re continuing to improve. But why are we playing in a crowded field when we can blaze a trail in other areas?

There’s no hotter Jamaican commodity right now than our athletics programme. These guys are not just world class; they’re world beaters! They literally run rings around the national football team and regional cricket team in terms of Brand Jamaica identity and visibility, and are the antithesis of everything that’s wrong with Jamaica. And the athletes aren’t the super-privileged uptown kids either, and serve as role models to young people that hard work and dedication (something the get-rich-quick Cash Plus and Olint people could have used) can yield rich rewards of fame and fortune.

We should (and are developing) proper sports medicine programmes to study these specimens, and create an athletics factory of more world beaters. Spinoffs include anatomical simulators and biomechanical equipment that can be used in non-athletic fields, such as general physiotherapies and similar areas, opening up the door further for medical tourism. And there’s so much more – you fill in the blanks here…

We just need to make sure we don’t screw it up by missing the opportunities here, or by over-bureaucratizing simple procedures that would promote investments and business clientele alike.

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3 Responses to “Playing to our Strengths”

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parris Posted by: parris June 14, 2010 at 9:00 pm