Jelly’s last jam
In this an election period, Bob Marley’s famous song, “Jamming” has become the national anthem of the presidency. The Government has virtually taken over the direction of Jamzone. Last year, Jamzone brought down the R&B singer Neyo. The organizers refused to say how much he was paid and how much the Government contributed to the days of jamming. The only thing we know is that state funds went into Jamzone last year.
Jamzone is huge this year. The itinerary is longer than the Essequibo River. To list the events will take up all the column space here. The usual overseas artists will be performing. And the perennial question will pop up and will not be answered by the Jamzone duo – how much the jamming cost.
There is no way in a poor country like this that the Jamzone events could make a profit. Neyo is an international star. His fees would have bankrupted the Jamzone organization.
Mr. Jagdeo was pictured rapping with Neyo. This year, there will follow the usual pattern. Only this time, Donald Ramotar will be added to the list. He will feature along with the President greeting and chatting with the artists. Even if elections are not held this year, it is doubtful that its postponement will go beyond August next year, so this is Mr. Jagdeo’s last jam. He will make it memorial not because it is his last, but it must be part of the serenade to woo young voters.
Providing people with entertainment is an ancient stratagem. In journalistic parlance, we refer to it as “bread and circus.” It has never worked. It will not work for the PPP’s election campaign. Ernie Ross may tell Mr. Jagdeo it is a winning strategy. Maybe in other countries, not Guyana. The reasons are many and some are contextual.
On a theoretical level, it is suspect. Young people do not see the connection between their vote and the entertainment that they enjoy. They don’t care who organized it, they just want to have fun. I don’t know of any situation where people have been so grateful to the government for the fun that they went out during the election and voted for them. It is a stereotype of young people that has no election profit.
Secondly, in Guyana, the ethnic divide has more influence on how people vote than Jamzone’s circus. Why do Ernie Ross, Mr. Jagdeo and the PPP feel that after a month of fun in the sun, the ethnic consciousness that go into voting will just disappear. After dancing to Neyo, people went back to the workplace where at the end of the month, their salaries disappeared after loans that were accumulated earlier in the month had to be paid. The same drama is going to play out at the end of this month.
Thirdly, young people are turned off of politics. They do not see any Barack Obama on the horizon. And over the decades, politics in Guyana has been so tragic that they have divorced themselves from it. Ernie Ross and Mr. Jagdeo have to have some serious contempt for these young folks if they think that after the escapades they had with Jamzone, they are going to walk into a ballot booth and vote for the PPP.
Fourthly, this kind of strategy may work in robust economies, not in economically impoverished countries of the Third World like Guyana. This point is related to number two cited above. When you have a country as poor as this, after the jamming is over, there is no enthusiasm for the government because money is not there to sustain the initial zeal. If Jamzone’s organisers had to finance Neyo on their own, cost of tickets would have been exorbitant. For that reason, the Government pitched in, and this is what it is doing this year, including the cricket match with Chris Gayle.
Fifthly, Jamzone cannot erase the ill-feeling for the PPP across the country. Sadly for those who have planned a month of jamming in the hope it will galvanize support for the ruling party, it will not happen. Daily scandals have virtually devastated the image and credibility of all PPP leaders, including Mr. Jagdeo.
The PPP is not your run-of-the mill government that is trying and is perceived by the population as dedicated and honest. The scandals just keep mounting. Just when you think it was smooth sailing, the Education Ministry gets embroiled in money scandals. Then PPP-king maker, Ed Ahmad gets into trouble and we learn that he shipped 29 tons of stuff to State House. What’s inside those containers?