How Lee Kuan Yew made me think more pragmatic about the sharing of my ideas

Why I decided to empty my cup in 2021

I have always been hesitant or should I say cautiously reluctant to share specific details, more specifically business ideas that fit within Jamaica’s logistics centred economic framework.

This not because, to use the Jamaican parlance, ‘bad mind,’ (wish ill of someone) or want to impede the progress or success of another. In fact, far from it, I just believed that, and quite doggedly so, that it was not my role as a public servant or the role of government. The proper role of government and public servants, I believed, was to improve the business environment and get out of the way of business so that they can get on with business.

Additionally, even as private citizen I also doggedly believed that it was not my role to simply give away ideas or attempt to tell business about its business, after all they would know best.

This is something I still firmly believe however what I have come to learn, understand and appreciate, thanks Lee Kuan Yew, is that that ‘proper role for government’ or as a private citizen has to be tempered with a degree of pragmatism. A part of this means putting your ideas out there and stimulating dialog.

What sparked this evolution, those closest to me would say revolution?

I don’t know whether it is mellowing with age or experience, granted I am not that old, being only forty. Or is it the frustration at both the lack of understanding and appreciation of and for the logistics hub initiative and by extension the special economic zone regime and the work that has been done thus far. Or maybe it’s a deep seeded ego-fuelled narcissistic need to unpack and hear my own voice? Or could it be wanting to see Jamaica do better, knowing that we can in fact do better?

The truth is that I don’t fully the know the answers. And I am ok with that. The truth properly rests in some combination of all of the above.

In late 2020 I found myself, as a colleague of mine is fond of saying, ‘impaled on the horns of a dilemma.’ After reading Lee Kuan Yew’s book From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965–2000, in one of those moments we all have from time to time of deep self-reflection I had to ask myself who was this dogged belief helping?

I did not like the answer as it certainly wasn’t helping me nor was it helping Jamaica.

This sort of soul searching is not always a pleasant experience and it wasn’t for me as one has to really confront yourself and look in the mirror and ask yourself do you like what is staring back at you?

And this is where I was impaled. This firmly held conviction was no longer, if it ever did, supporting or supportive of an outcome I was desperately seeking.

Ah- ah!

Something had to change and that something was me.

Pragmatism, at least to a degree, is now the order of the day.

This pragmatism however is not an abandonment of my convictions rather it is a tempering of those convictions signalled by a greater willingness to share ideas. Moreover, this pragmatism must always be viewed and will be carried out within the strictures of the law and the canons professional conduct expected of a public servant. What this means for example is a that I am bound to secrecy and confidentiality in relation to client and Government of Jamaica data that is not in the public domain.

However, this leaves a lot of room to share and like a raging river bursting its banks after a torrential downpour, I am ready to spill my banks. In some senses this ‘new normal’ was in many ways inevitable given my nature. However, it took a while to get here but I am here now. Get ready for a burst.

Well, technically it has already started.

However, here is a sampling of what to expect. Please note that these are my ideas and are not necessarily reflective of any Government Jamaica or Jamaica’s Special Economic Zone Authority’s views. Additionally, what follows below are not placed in any order of priority and are subject areas not necessarily titles to articles:

  • Cooling as a service and how this could be used to take on logistical problems of food spoilage, seasonal agricultural over supply, and also improve export quality of agricultural products. Also, how this opens up the possibilities of the pharmaceutical manufacturing and or distribution from Jamaica.
  • Building productive knowledge through joint ventures (JV). Jamaicans can create and add more value to a JV partner and deals than we think. What is that value?
  • Capturing more value from Brand Jamaica and having it land and stick in Jamaica. Leveraging the Jamaican brand to rethink old products and developing new ones.
  • Using outward bound investment to grow and develop your business and by extension Jamaica. This is a bit counterintuitive but different thinking is needed as this time.
  • Why the return of locally manufactured Betty Milk heralded a new age of possibilities for Jamaican manufacturing.
  • Data annotation and the training of artificial intelligence in Jamaica.

And these are just a few.

There are some whom may say, Ainsley are you crazy, these are good ideas, why are you sharing them for free?

Maybe I am a bit crazy or maybe I am not — I guess the jury is still out on that one — but the one thing I do know is that I believe in my heart of hearts that it is the right thing to do.

I am like the student who goes to the guru to be shown the path to enlightenment only to be told the true path of laid in filling a cup with water. For those who have heard some version of the story before sorry if I butcher it, I just hope I get my point across.

The student dutifully followed the guru’s instructions and filled the cup and stopped when it was full. The guru pointed at the cup and said that is you, now keep filling the cup as that is the path. The cup already being full over flowed on to the table. The student confused asked the guru to explain what he meant, the guru explained ‘how can fill you with my knowledge, you are already full, go away and come back when you are empty, that is when I can help you.’

This is me emptying my cup.

First published on Commercial Law International.

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Special Economic Zone Specialist | Logistics and Global Value Chains Enthusiast | Educator | Blogger | Lawyer| Data Viz Student| Rugby Player

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Ainsley Brown

Ainsley Brown

Special Economic Zone Specialist | Logistics and Global Value Chains Enthusiast | Educator | Blogger | Lawyer| Data Viz Student| Rugby Player

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