Born in 1948, Shalman Scott, one of the most prominent mayors of the St James Municipal Corporation and the city of Montego Bay, had the privilege of experiencing Jamaican independence in 1962.
Not known for withholding opinions on issues affecting the country, Scott has been vocal about Jamaica’s trajectory over the past 60 years since the island gained political independence.
“Independence was an aspiration that especially countries emerging from colonialism and slavery welcomed and yearned for,” said the 74-year-old Montegonian, who received the Order of Distinction for his outstanding contribution to the nation building.
“And so it was a general desire of the countries, as they say in Jamaica, ‘that every bucket should stand on its own bottom’. It was this basic principle that drove the spirit of the desire for political independence and to see the Jamaican people having more of a say in shaping the economic and social evolution of the country, especially in light of what happened in the past when there was a time when only the plantocracy controlled the government.
Scott explained that becoming independent changed all that and expanded the democratic system that began in 1944, when the first universal adult suffrage election was held, giving ordinary Jamaicans a chance to decide their elected representatives.
“It’s very important to understand the areas where progress has been made over the years, but it’s also critical to understand what preceded those areas,” he said. The Sunday Gleaner.
Giving four examples, he named the Common Entrance Examination, which began in 1957, some 119 years after the abolition of slavery; the Holidays with Pay Act of 1964, one hundred and twenty-six years after slavery; the National Insurance Program of 1968; and the National Housing Trust (NHT) Act of 1976, one hundred and thirty-eight years after the abolition of slavery.
“Education has become accessible to the children of former slaves; Jamaicans were able to get paid vacation and sick leave; the poor houses (infirmaries) were not so overcrowded because the NIS (National Insurance Scheme) came into effect and islanders could own their own homes under the NHT,” he said .
“But, as the economy grew, those who were the ‘haves’ reaped and skimmed most of the economy, much to the dismay and difficulty of the great masses of people.”
Growing inequality, he said, has caused people to turn to crime and corruption, as well as an escalation in drug trafficking and other forms of criminal activity, as a means of survival because that the economic structure did not provide enough opportunities for people who became more sensitive to their right to a good life in the country, “and so all sorts of clandestine activities were now being pursued for their survival”.
“One cannot even get a good reading of the current direction of the macroeconomic performance elements, because this very underground economy is very difficult to read as its activities impact and converge on the formal economy,” he said. he noted.
ORGANIZED WEALTH, ORGANIZED POVERTY
Using a dichotomy as an example, Scott said that if wealth is organized, so is poverty.
“Wealth is organized in our society, just as poverty is organized. It is no accident that so many people have remained poor. It’s always been part of the system. One of the great signs of the callousness of political power is what happened when elementary education was to be given to the children of the masses, seven years after Emancipation, and even despite the fact that the England were ready to give half the cost, it was rejected,” Scott said.
“And that attitude has prevailed over time and has gotten worse because over the last five or six decades the economy has gone down in many areas and, even if you’re talking about the growth of employment, it’s not about employment, it’s about what you earn and, more importantly, about your purchasing power.
Money has no value, he said, unless it is backed by goods and services, “and so when inflation begins to reduce the purchasing power of money people, due to the dislocation of the economy, whatever the factors, they will be worse at the shutdown”.
Considered an arsonist who served his country in several areas of public service, including as a trade unionist, Shalman Scott was the voice of reason for scholars, talk show hosts, politicians, the media and the public. ordinary man.
He constantly called for balancing the economic scale, allowing the marginalized to have opportunities.
“We made significant progress in the 1950s and 60s. When we look at the history of the Jamaican economy in the post-colonial period, we have made progress in many ways. There has been tremendous economic expansion and consolidation, although there have been inequalities in the system,” he said.
But things started to go downhill from there, leading to a psychological effect of distrust, a historical and endemic distrust of the popular masses towards those who control wealth and power.
This mistrust, unfortunately, was reinforced by a turning point in the 1970s, and up to the country’s current situation, backfired on the growth that Jamaica was experiencing, such as the increasing shifts in political ideology.
“For example, when the concept of democratic socialism was announced in the 1970s, the [United States’] The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) had its switchman on the ground, attempting to cripple Michael Manley’s socialist agendas, which leaned toward greater promotion and consolidation of opportunity for the poor. It was destroyed by violence and destabilization,” the historian said.
“What it tells us is that the process of destabilization of the Jamaican economy has prevented many fruit trees from bearing benefit for the masses of our people. And so what we’ve had ingrained in the country, based on the evolution of our history and despite trying to bring progress, is this concept of organized wealth and organized poverty.
Scott said Jamaica still struggles with these types of issues that hold people back.
“Sixty years later, several decades after the period of economic growth of the 1950s and 1960s, after that there were periods of economic decline, resulting from all sorts of factors but not the least of which was the deliberate destruction of the Jamaican economy – proof that is given by none less than former Continental CIA chief Philip Agee,” Scott said.
DORRETTE WAS HIS WORLD
Despite the grief of watching his beloved country go backwards instead of forwards over the years, undoing the progress made, Shalman Scott remains in the fight for the better.
Jamaica will always be at home. And he thinks back to those years and events that gave birth to the man he has become.
His late wife Dorrette was his whole world, he said, the pain lingers even after losing her 20 years ago.
Scott shared the same bench with Dorrette at Mount Zion Primary School in Rose Hall, St James, moving from class to class.
Best friends from the age of seven, the two would go their separate ways when Dorrette moved to another school. But, the moment they became students, they came together, both becoming teachers, making a significant contribution to education in Jamaica.
Scott did not attend one of the traditional secondary schools in the Second City and when he left elementary school he went to trade school where he learned electrical installation and electricity automotive, honing those skills later in a public works apprenticeship program. Department.
Scott later served as a tutor at Cornwall College in the history department, while Dorrette later became principal of the Caribbean’s largest early childhood institution, Montego Bay Infant School.
As adept as he was in electrical science, Scott was born for the classroom, and it was there that he influenced two former mayors, Noel Donaldson Jr and Hugh Solomon, who were students in his history class at the Cornwall College.
It was during his tenure at the popular Montego Bay Boys’ School, where he made an indelible contribution, that the people of St James’s Rose Hall Division convinced the Barrett Town-born and raised man to represent them in the local government level.
Son of the land, it was an easier feat for him to win the seat. He has done so three times, representing his community as a parish councilor for 14 years, including five and a half years as mayor of Montego Bay between 1981 and 1986.
He was the one who stood next to Governor-General Sir Florizel Glasspole when he announced the Act of Declaration officially granting Montego Bay city status on May 1, 1981, months after it was passed in Parliament in 1980.
The father of four – three boys and a girl, one of whom is now deceased – would lose his wife and best friend Dorrette years later.
He made his presence felt as an honors graduate of Georgetown University and the London School of Economics.
He attended both institutions on scholarships, completing all of his classes upon completion.
Among the Mico Teachers’ College graduate’s greatest accomplishments today is the pivotal role played by the Parish Council of St James in the development of Montego Bay’s waterfront program while he was its chairman.
“It was these developments that gave Montego Bay the kind of status and economic position it now has within the context of the country’s economy. On a cultural level, the Sam Sharpe Monument in Sam Sharpe Square was unveiled,” Scott said.
While serving as mayor, Scott became such an integral part of the World Conference of Mayors that he was re-elected five times as vice-president, responsible for activities and programs in the Caribbean and Central America.