In the week before Christmas, many of the poorer areas of Kingston get a quick makeover, as hundreds of local residents hack at overgrown pavements and daub the kerbs with whitewash. They are motivated not by a spontaneous burst of civic pride, but rather by the promise of a day’s work, usually paid for by the local politician. For some, it will be one of a few rare days of paid employment each year. It is noticeable, but not surprising, that most of the workers are women.
Although J$1,000 per day is surely welcome at this time of year, it does little to break the culture of clientelism and certainly falls short of providing long-term benefit to the individuals or the community.
As the Jamaican-Chinese proverb says:
Give a gyal a brush an’ she paint for a day. Give ‘er a heducation, a microcredit loan, a clean and safe environment
Ah man! Jus’ give ‘er de damn brush, y’hear?!
Parliamentary elections in Jamaica are due by October 2007.