Jamaica has taken a big step as it relates to protecting the environment. As of 2019 and phased through to 2020, Jamaica will be banning the importation and production of single-use plastic, styrofoam and cling wrap, in all but the most urgent cases such as hospitals, etc. This step by the Government, in spite of the pertinent questions, has been well greeted by all as the majority of the nation’s citizens grow weary of the constant flooding (aided by plastic) and acrid smoke which billows whenever the dump is set on fire. Unfortunately, some of the nation’s styrofoam and plastic manufacturers are, for the most part, not on board with this plan as this ban would wipe out a sizeable chunk of profits, and as private companies answerable solely to their shareholders that is a situation which they baulk at. As such, certain companies have taken action by stating (through their connections to the politicians) that if the situation, then the party implementing this can expect to see no campaign funding from some of these companies.
We find ourselves wondering both how the country is to move forward and who is the ruler and who is the ruled? How can the country expect to move forward and tackle the hard questions when the rich and powerful (in this case) demand measures which hold us back? Do they believe that the politicians are there simply to bend to their will (such as the case with granulated sugar) and that the average citizen must simply suck it up? We are a nation drowning in plastic when it comes to the mainland and our rivers, and we are an island in a sea of plastic as it relates to the Caribbean Sea and broader Atlantic Ocean. We have been clamouring and begging for some form of trash mitigation and environmental protection. Why then does this company harangue our elected representatives to go against what the people want? In a time when the public is apathetic at best towards politicians and the ruling elite, when they view them as simply washing each other’s hands and leaving the rest to fend for themselves, wouldn’t it have been ideal to egg on the state in this situation as opposed to putting up walls in order to protect vested interests? This is why people are disgusted with our elites, be they politician or businessmen. They always seem to put their narrow wants first before even contemplating the masses needs.
A time like this, when the national and global economies are teetering, is the time for unity. Trite words, but if I am allowed to explain then the sentiment may sound and feel a bit less trite. For example, instead of crying about lost revenue, these companies and manufacturers could spend the time looking into the already existing (booming) world of alternative packaging. Instead of crying over the fact that they have lost a market, which was doomed anyway, why don’t they look into pushing the new packaging (which must come on board some day) into areas in the region which do not manufacture packaging but are also looking to ban these plastic items? Such a move would not only secure windfall profits but would also look most noble as Jamaicans would have jobs while saving the environment. What is needed at this point is true nationalism and unity amongst what would usually be warring factions. The state is in tatters financially, its branches are seen as corrupt and are viewed with suspicion, social services are chronically underfunded, and the private sector is riddled with people who are okay with shooting themselves in the foot for short-term gains. This is not a scenario which favours either the die-hard socialist or the capitalist who seeks to make a sustained profit. It is a recipe for disaster. We need our usually warring factions to get together for the sake of the nation. We need the big tent of nationalism right now if we are to survive. This means the white capitalist, the black liberation leader and the left-radical must at the very least temporarily put aside their differences in order to get the nation to a position where its people can then make realistic decisions about what they aim to do. It may sound like a strange appeal but at this juncture, having been ravaged and left by British pre-independence and abused by our elected, private sector and civic leaders post-independence, we need a period in which we can build ourselves up. That requires an amalgamation of those waring ideologies. It means we need a capitalist base so that money flows and people have jobs. We need some socialism with mass social programmess such as education, food, housing, etc. It would mean putting a premium on black pride and culture as a way of breaking the mental chains of old institutions while crafting new avenues of thought for self-development and it finally means key industries either being held by Jamaican capitalists or the Jamaican state itself.
These companies, though doing right by the shareholders, are doing a massive disservice to the Jamaican public and we shouldn’t take it. The time is not yet right to say ‘nationalize this or that company’ as a form of punishment for their obstinate behaviour, but if they insist on playing hardball then I am pretty sure that the state must have some favourable tax deals signed with many of these companies which could be terminated to show them just who is boss and in whose interest the state and companies should be run. Nationalism is what we need now, and those who don’t want to act in a nationalistic way must be forced. Political independence, economic independence, social and cultural independence can only be attained through nationalism and for too long we have missed out on that boat. The state has held up its end of the barging in this instance, and though we might not have a lot of power to force these companies, we do have enough to make them think. Let us use the little force we have to pressure them to work in the national interest, we’ve wasted too many years looking out for individual ones.