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A Think-Tank for Jamaica

An Idea Factory: An Idea Whose Time Has Come: to improve political decision making through research, analysis and consensus building

Basil Waine Kong, Ph.D., JD

Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has arrived. It is becoming increasingly clear that Jamaica needs an institute where the full time occupation of really bright people is to focus on generating ideas and guide the changes needed to empower our people to unleash their energy, creativity, innovative and competitive spirit in their pursuit of financial security, health and happiness. The value of an institute to address a wide array of public policy issues at both national and local levels cannot be overestimated. Let us act quickly before we cross the Rubicon and lose hope. Without vision, our people perish.

Almost all important political and social changes started with an idea. The idea often originate with people who spend a great deal of their lives thinking and focusing on solutions to problems that plague us. Across the political or ideological spectrum, it would be difficult in the modern age to point to any major public policy initiative that did not originate from a think tank of some sort. Well researched, analyzed and developed ideas are important first steps to addressing the social, economic and legal issues facing our country. Objective non-partisan analysis and effective solutions are desperately needed.

As the incubator of innovative ideas, the Jamaican Think-Tank (JTT) would work with decision makers in both the public and private sectors to find solutions to our difficult, sensitive, and important problems. In the United States, Health Care Reform, welfare reform, School Vouchers, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the War on Poverty Program and The Great Society initiative all evolved out of think tanks.

Jamaicans have excelled in every field of human endeavor. Unfortunately, the United States, Europe and Canada are, on the most part, the beneficiary of our talents and contributions. These scholars are anxious to participate in the development of Jamaica in some meaningful way but are never asked. There is currently no forum to garner their input and make use of their formidable insights and intellectual acumen.

The Internet has made communication cheap, easy and immediate. It is now possible to bring a diverse group of scholars together to interact and brainstorm (at will) regardless of where they may live in the world. Because we are goal oriented, we can also contract with scholars to research specific topics and encourage solutions to well-defined problems and judge their righteousness based on their success in addressing Jamaica’s challenges.

Just like a butterfly flapping its wings can be the start of a hurricane, an idea can grow into an action and a movement once the tipping point is reached. An original idea may occur to someone while reading, praying, sitting in a barbershop,conversing over a game of dominoes or having a drink with friends. It could be subsequently presented in an article or book, brought up in discussions with more friends and colleagues in a speech at a conference or even a simple letter to the editor published in a local newspaper. As more and more people begin to talk about the idea, it will be helped along by people who may benefit financially in its adoption and the audience expands. Eventually political leaders climb on board and make it happen often claiming the credit.

The objectives of our Think-Tank:

1. supply experts to testify on various laws under consideration;

2. write articles for the op-ed pages of newspapers, and appear as TV commentators;

3. advise political aspirants and elected leaders;

4. lead orientation seminars to train incoming members of parliament;

5. create viable alternatives to programs that are not meeting expected objectives;

6. Study, suggest solutions and help to implement streamlined and workable government bureaucratic procedures;

7. Conduct impact studies for proposed programs;

8. investigate unmet needs in the country and propose programs that could address these needs;

9. investigate how some government policies are causing road blocks and stifling innovation and find the private sector solutions to better address and reform them;

10. encourage research and provide a forum for scholarly interaction;

11. Derive income from consulting or research work related to our mandate (Ideas can be marketed like products);

12. built up expertise and institutional memory that could be brought to bear in later years when our political leaders are ready to address them;

13. convene monthly issue related as well as an annual high level conferences;
14. travel to distant shores to learn how other countries address these challenges.

This proposed non-government organization (NGO) will be home to our greatest and most creative Jamaican intellectuals offering advice as well as prepare and publish position papers outlining clear options, and solutions that will be both effective and enduring.

Some of the formidable challenges needing thoughtful attention from the JTT include:

1, Overcoming Poverty,

2. Reducing Crime and Violence,

3. Eliminating Illiteracy and developing skill training programs,

4. Promoting business and overcoming unemployment,

5. Promoting higher education,

6. Improving the health of our people,

7. Using the law to meet the needs of our people,

8. Maximizing the use of renewable and Alternative energy,

9. Providing adequate housing,

10. Protecting and improving our environment (air, water, oceans, rivers, etc.)

If we play or cards right, I foresee an explosion of intellectual activity. And the generation of ideas that will transform and guide Jamaica to prosperity for all its citizens. One does not have to be a politician or actively engaged in the political process to change the direction of our country. This could be the beginning of a revolution that will set the stage for Jamaica to become the paradise it was always meant to be.

Do you know how this institute could be funded?

Bullet Columnist Basil Waine Kong has written several pieces for this journal and especially likes to expound on his favorite subject: his beloved Jamaica. He is a former Atlien (resident of Atlanta GA), and was the CEO of the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) for 22 years before his retirement in 2008 to return to Jamaica. This article is reprinted with his permission from his blogsite; Coming in From the Cold… Bob Marley

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