Thinking Differently in Jamaica


By Dennis Chung
CJ Contributor

2015 is here, and we celebrate a new year and new beginnings. But what does the turn of a new year really mean?

Traditionally, we have always celebrated a new year as a new beginning, but what makes the start of a new year any different from the old year? After all, we still have the same crime problem on January 1 as we did on December 31. We still have the same leadership issues. We still have the same problems with bureaucracy (which we were reminded of on the last day of 2014 with the statement from Omar Azan).

There are, of course, some things that are different, which we can speak to. We threw out the old calendars and put up the new ones. That is if you are still from the old school where you have a physical calendar rather than a digital version. For some companies and accountants it is significant because it is the start of a new accounting year, but then again, this is not consistent with everyone.

The truth is that there is nothing different between an old year and a new year, outside of the festivities and commercial activities. When we return to work on Monday, the workload and challenges will be the same as December 31 (unless you worked throughout the holidays).

Many of us make New Year resolutions, which we carry from year to year, and each year they need to be bigger, as we have, for example, gained more weight or have not done all that we wanted to do.

So in reality, there is really nothing different about a new year. The positive about recognising a new year is that it provides for us a measure of time, which we can use to measure progress or failure.

But this measure of time is only useful if we had goals, charted a path for those goals, and made sure that we followed our plan. So a company may do a budget and strategic plan for the year, but if the management fails to follow and monitor the plan during the year, then they could come to the end of the year and realise they have not achieved it.

Similarly, a person who has a health plan, such as weight loss, needs to monitor the steps every day to achieve that plan.

Therefore, while the new year serves as a significant measurement milestone, the achievement of that milestone is reached by actions during the year. So we really don’t need a new year to do this, but rather it provides a yardstick and is a good way for people to check their indiscipline.

How many of us have made resolutions in the past to lose weight, but find ourselves putting on more each year? Or how many of us have said that we want to achieve something during a year but find at the end of the year that we are one year older without the achievement?

One thing we can agree on, however, is that the new year is not a magical solution to any challenges we have.

So how do we ensure that we achieve what we want during a year? The reality is that the only thing that will allow change is for us to change our mindset and approach to existing situations. In other words, actions are most times driven by how we think about the problems.

So, if you want to make health changes in 2015, then you have to change your attitude and behaviour that cause the weight problem, which may include getting new friends who do not encourage the bad behaviour.

If we also want a better country, then we also must change the way we approach and think about solutions. This I find to be a big part of the problem we have had over the years.

We have, for example, had many International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreements and promises by politicians in previous years but have always found ourselves back in the same economic quagmire or worse. This is simply because, until the current agreement, we had not adopted a new way of thinking and doing things. And this is why many are saying that the current path, in general, does not work.

Those people are slaves to the normal ways of doing things, which is a significant reason that companies seek younger talent all the time, as they come with a different perspective, which is needed for growth.

This is not limited to the politicians, many of whom need renewal. It also applies to the public. A big challenge for me resides with public sector leadership and rules. I think there are some excellent workers and leaders in the public sector, but there are also some people who think that the role of the public sector is to prevent rather than facilitate.

For example, one of the things we must confront in 2015 is that growing fiscal revenues is not just about squeezing every last cent out of businesses in the form of taxes, but also facilitating the growth of business, resulting in a much larger base of revenue, even if it means lowering the tax take from businesses.

If we are also going to deal with the crime and law and order problems, then we must also think of a different approach. Police Commissioner Carl Williams and National Security Minister Peter Bunting, I think, have the right attitude change that will see progress in this area, and we are seeing some progress, although many are not capable of seeing change while it is happening.

There is, however, still much to be done here.

Much of the responsibility for law and order also resides with the citizens, who don’t see anything they do as wrong. My challenge to citizens is that they should not support any violation of laws such as the Night Abatement Act, or driving and talking on the phone, or disposing of garbage improperly.

We must also change our attitudes to child abuse and punish the perpetrators, and those who are complicit, severely.

This responsibility even extends to not protecting people who have done wrong and supporting the rules to be implemented by the JUTC. When they start implementing these rules we shouldn’t be asking for people to be given a “bligh”. We must support the rules and call out the JUTC if they are not implementing them to the fullest extent of the law.

So as we start the measurement period of 2015, let us all understand that irrespective of the great plans and wants we have, that these will only be successful if we change our mindset and approach to dealing with our challenges, as there is no magic wand that is waved at the start of a new year.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Dennis Chung is a chartered accountant and is currently Vice President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica. He has written two books: Charting Jamaica’s Economic and Social Development – 2009; and Achieving Life’s Equilibrium – balancing health, wealth, and happiness for optimal living – 2012. Both books are available at Amazon in both digital and paperback format. His blog He can be reached at

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