Like any country around the world, Jamaica must deal with problems like crime, corruption, educational inequality and economic uncertainty. The systematic causes run along the same lines too. But the single most important factor in resolving societal challenges involves creating economic opportunities. So a concerted effort across many avenues is needed, and Otis Wright, Sr. implores fellow Jamaicans locally and internationally to join his voice as it relates to the future of Jamaica.
“We must rise up together,” Wright said. “The change starts with us.”
Thus, the chorus he seeks begins by giving Jamaica a more self-contained approach. “We have to start producing more than we are exporting, because currently, we’re not,” he said. “So the country is flooded with imported goods and nothing is wrong with supporting the global market, but our leaders have a responsibility to ensure a surplus in our Gross Domestic Production (GDP) that will continue to facilitate growth”.
As a result, Jamaican producers can find themselves on the outs while stifling our local market. Cheaper goods come from the outside, and consumers will always opt for them. “It’s causing our economy to bleed,” he said.
So the island nation needs a leadership that lives up to countrymen and women who already know the way. “Step up to the plate,” Wright asserts, “don’t just think about your personal economics, your own interests and your own backyard.”
Accountability, Jamaicans must demand, but overcoming self-interest may still require a more elevated push. “When you go back to the Bible and look at some of the kings that failed, they didn’t heavily involve God in their decisions,” said Wright.
The light shouldn’t be so hard to see – especially with constituents who are well suited to provide the path. “Jamaicans are very strong and spiritually rooted people,” Wright asserted.
Of course, Wright humbles himself just like his associate and acknowledges some of his personal and business failures in the past have arisen from not seeking divine guidance on all affairs, but noted that when he did, he experienced great success and stability. He noted that some failures can create great opportunities. “It’s always pivotal that we have God involved in our nation’s affairs or its people will suffer for lack of vision,” he said.
Nonetheless, the right way forward still requires more than just trying to do the right thing and leaders can never have enough inspired wisdom from the Almighty. The negotiation of trade deals and foreign investments tops the list. “How will it benefit the people of Jamaica socially and economically?” said Wright. He added, “both administrations will make mistakes as it relates to drafting longterm or short term policies, but they must be revisited quickly and the necessary amendments must be made. No political party is perfect, but they have a responsibility and thus be accountable to the people”.
To date, Chinese Infrastructure investments have made travel more efficient in certain areas, but Wright is not so sure about the details. For one, he’s concerned that the ratio of Jamaican workers to Chinese nationals is not high enough. “We have to think about the future of our children and not put the burden on their backs by our own failures, and lack of insight as leaders.”
The activist also worries that uneven agreements could cause ongoing debt problems. “I think the Jamaican government should be very careful about doing business with the Chinese,” he said. “A bad deal can be detrimental to the next generations for 20, 30 or 40 years.”
For example, Wright cites a recent $720 Million infrastructure investment on the North-South Highway. A 1200 acre parcel of land was swapped, and the numbers don’t match up. According to Government Member of Parliament Leslie Campbell. Jamaica may have agreed to provide lands to Chinese developers that would otherwise have attracted a significant cost if they were being sold, the MP told the Jamaica Gleaner. “I somehow get the impression that this is a little untidy. Some arrangements ought to have been put in place to factor in these very expensive lands.”
A similar transaction was recently arranged for a $250 million dredging of the Port of Kingston, according to the NYCCaribnews.com. In return, China Merchants Port Holdings received a 30-year control of the eight terminals, and this does not reflect well on the Jamaica Labor Party, it was not a wise decision in Wright’s estimation. “Once you don’t have control over your ports, our government no longer has control over the country.” He lamented “the Jamaican people are not for sale. We have some of the best leaders throughout the Caribbean, its time it reflects in our decision-making process by protecting the interest of the people of Jamaica. It is time both parties RISE up and work in a nonpartisan way for a brighter future for the people of Jamaica.” Wright further said “I believe they all work hard, I know for a fact that its not an easy task because I was at the local level so I understand the demand and representing the ones division or constituency. But we can do more especially as it relates to criminal elements, which is a grave concern to all citizens. said Wright”.
The policy puts Jamaica, and its people at risk. Even so, Wright commends the many corporate companies, nonprofits, religious organizations and individuals who have taken it upon themselves to build a better and viable Jamaica economically and socially, thus causing Jamaica to be a force in the Caribbean.
The same goes for the Jamaican Diaspora’s long-standing support socially and economically, but there’s no reason to limit the scope of the region’s goodwill toward national building. In other words, 400 years of a shared history should inspire Caribbean nations to look out for each other. “We have to unite as a people,” he said. “I can’t think of a better time than now.”
Wright strongly urges leaders and community members by more than just words, though. Aside from his work in the tourism industry and career as an entrepreneur, the Montego Bay native was a consular candidate for the People’s National Party in St. James, did volunteer outreach and was a member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board for a number of years. In relation to other international organizations, he has collaborated with Image Caribbean Cultural Society and New Hope Chiropractic Wellness Center and other organizations to donate food items, clothes and other back to school supplies. Wright said “helping people economically and spiritually – that’s me, that’s who I want to embody”.
So with more programs and initiatives to uplift youth and at risk communities, the activist doesn’t feel the burden of serving others and draws strength from the people of his land. “There’s no way to hold us down,” he said. “We are a driven people determined to make our mark locally and internationally, full of resilience and determination and we are always looking for opportunities to better ourselves and others.”
The resilience struck him as far back as he could remember and made service second nature. The hope now is that more Jamaicans will join his journey. Wright concluded, “that’s why I’m trying to reach out to my people, locally and internationally to RISE UP. It’s their time for victory and economic success”.