Jamaica Land of Culture But Does PICA Understand It?

Jamaica Land of Culture But Does PICA Understand It?

For Dancehall DJ Alkaline it’s 123 to get a girl to fall in love with him, it was 123 for me when I entered the Passport Immigration and Citizen Agency (PICA) on Constant Spring Road a few years ago to get a passport for a family member who was a minor at the time.

Anticipating the disorganization and tardiness that is typical of many GoJ institutions, I was at PICA’s office before 6 am, some hours before opening time. Pleasantly surprised I was that I was able to access the premises, that there was a seating system in place to keep the order of arrival and that there were security guards and administrative staff that had rural Jamaica like ‘brought-up-sy’. 

I observed almost in disbelief, a level of professionalism never before witnessed at any GoJ office I had ever visited. This was not a case of one person saving the lot, at every point in the process there was a sense that the workers knew their role and understood that we were customers.

PICA since then has been up inna mi good book, but it fava mi haffi go cross dem out!

At the height of a tense period between public sector workers and the Government of Jamaica (GoJ), PICA, an agency of GoJ on March 17, 2015, announces increases of 44-50 percent on passport related fees.

The announcement of the fee increases and the communication immediately following, makes it as obvious as a Phillips Clear LED bulb that the corporate planners at PICA, have very little understanding of the Jamaican culture, they have failed this one for me.

PICA needs to know…Jamaican’s are reactive

Did PICA not expect that there would be increased traffic at their offices during the period leading up to the increase? Had this little cultural fact been known PICA could have prepared a strategy to deal with the increased volumes and communicate that at the time of the announcement of the increase. Is it that the executives of PICA do not watch the local news like so many of our ministers of government? After so many blundered project implementations from the JUTC, MIIC and other GoJ units, why would PICA set itself up to go down this road?

PICA needs to know…A Passport is Not Just For Travelling 

Did I hear PICA’s CEO say that people can stand by until they need a passport to travel? Does she not understand that culturally a passport is a rite of passage? Does she not have the metrics to show how many Jamaican’s have passports that have never been used to travel? I would think it is important to know how a product that my company sells is used or if it appears to be purchased and underutilized, why?

To others who may also be out of touch, please understand, the passport is regularly used as a form of identification, just ask them at the remittance agencies. Consider also, not everyone is of the age to get a driver’s licence or voter’s ID but people want to have an ID and everyone irrespective of age, can get a passport.

Obtaining a passport is how some groups in society give their newborns ‘status’ early in life, they get them a passport and a visa before a travel date is even considered! Yuh neva know dat PICA?

The inefficiencies of the National Identification System need not be mentioned, needless to say, it is a turnoff for many to go that route for the poor quality photo IDs that are delivered. 

PICA needs to know…You Are in the Business of Selling Hope 

A colleague of mine like the PICA CEO, believes that many of the persons who made the trip to PICA offices across the island since the announcement were just random in their decision to get a passport at this time. I say no. Speak to the average depressed Jamaican who is trying to get his life together, I guarantee you, high on his to-do list will be to ‘look bout’ him birth certificate and or passport. Believe me, there is something about owning one that gives us hope. 

A passport in hand offers a glimpse of hope to being able to access any ‘likkle’ opportunity that may show up, be it farm work, marriage, a prize vacation or an invitation from a long lost relative. 

For these people, rushing to PICA’s offices at this time is simply to save J$2000 on something they were planning to do anyway, if even in the medium term; that my friends, is the significance of J$2000 to some.

 PICA needs to know…Di Filing Can Soon Start or Soon Come Tru

The PICA boss is of the opinion that if travel is not expected in the near future then the purchase of a passport can be delayed, since the passport lasts for ten years. Very well but consider this cultural rationalization.

Granny gon’ Merika from 2011 by next year she can apply fi citizenship den start file fi har pickney and gran pickney dem.

Her children and grand children will now have rational reason to try and get their passports ahead of the increase. PICA should have good migration statistics; they should understand that for every person that has left, an opportunity is created for more to go and many do expect to go, at some point, check with the foreign embassies.

PICA needs to know…The Jamaican People Have Become Better Listeners 

The people are paying better attention to leadership and governance; they understand that PICA will need to make changes to survive after they are cut off from the consolidated fund but we are giving special ear to how PICA communicates this to us.

Is it necessary to inflame emotions by comparing the passport fees to how much people ‘chat’ in credit per day or week! 

We are listening and what we expect to hear from PICA are the nitties and gritties of what they will not be able to do without the level of increase they have proposed. PICA could choose to share with us the budget that it needs to operate efficiently, the make-up of that budget, the schedule for the acquisition of the budgeted items and how the fees at the current level of increase will plug the hole. Bring us in on the plans gently PICA, don’t drop your standards and do that GoJ ‘talk dung somn deh’.  

Do not leave us PICA to believe that phone bill or phone card spend was a consideration in your rate increase calculations. That is the type of reasoning that makes the Jamaican people angry, yuh neva know dat PICA? 

By the way, is a PR Officer in the budget?

The only bit of cultural information I think PICA used in planning the new fees was the knowledge that Jamaican’s often forget the things that make us angry. Our anger lasts for only as long as the media can afford to remind us there is reason to be angry. PICA must know this as I don’t believe they would have otherwise put their good reputation on the line in announcing a roll out of fee increases, which by all evidence was poorly planned.

(C) C. E. Clarke for Help Mi Consulting | 2015

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