Welcome

Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Do we know what we are doing?

Many bureaucratic procedures exist and we comply with them without much question. I am a terrible skeptic when I can see little rhyme or reason in actions. Immigration forms at airports are a good example. Take my arrival in Nassau last night. Why do I need to give the precise details (name, address, telephone number) of the persons with whom I am staying? Is it really to be able to reach me in an emergency? I get uncomfortable when I ask why the information is needed and the reply I get is "Believe me. We need it." Why should I believe? Is this some tracing mechanism about who and where get the most visitors?

What I have noticed from a lot of international travel is that these types of details seem to be demanded more by certain types of countries. Those that have poor facilities for processing and analyzing them, such as many poor African countries, and Caribbean countries (with limited human resources). Those countries that have a clear central control regime (such as in the former Soviet Union). Countries that have a certain "make work" culture, which reflects a political gesture and a relatively easy way to fool people into thinking that unemployment is low. We see this last model sometimes in the Caribbean. Whatever the motivation there is a lot of seemingly useless paper shuffling. By contrast, the information needed to travel to and through most of western Europe and North America is minimal. Even though many of us dislike the new surly posture of the US Department of Homeland Security the information demanded at immigration is minimal.

I like to know why I do something. I like transparency. In the Caribbean we have a lot of problems with being open about official activities, as if everything told to the public can really threaten national security. Why also the plethora of immigration forms across the region? One of the great benefits of Cricket World Cup was having a Caricom common visa, which temporary eliminated a lot of bureaucracy at border points within the region, as should be the case if we are moving to a true common economic space.

We need to do a lot of streamlining in the region and we have shown in some areas that the task is not too hard. But all too often we hold onto old ways of doing things, or keep doing nonsense to as an act of political payback. I would rather live in a region that excelled in all it did and was a model of modernity. It could start appropriately at the border, the first point of contact for visitors.

2 comments:

Lc said...

Hello from Azores - Faial Island.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

http://rotadashortencias.blogspot.com/

zanne said...

Dennis, in the last year and a half I entered Barbados from the US about 12 times-- anyway one of the last times I returned to the US while passing through immigration the guard commented to me, after looking at his little computer screen of my numerous entries/exits, something to the effect that, "I must have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth..."-- I decided not to respond to him, needless to say if that was the case I wouldn't have been on the taxi cue outside the airport. I do wonder where all of this information goes. I also learned today that here in Barbados your National ID number appears on/is linked to your voting ballot which surprised me. Do you know much about the background regarding this?