Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said that the low levels of social capital within Jamaican society is one of the single greatest factors that makes managing the pandemic, and implementing any form of public policy, challenging.
According to Holness, the low levels of social capital, namely social trust, often means that the government must rely on enforcement rather than compliance.
“I’ve said it in my public presentations in Parliament and other places that there is a low trust environment in Jamaica, low trust, that’s just the reality, which makes it very difficult to implement public policy,” Holness said.
“Because in a low trust environment, you have to depend on enforcement, rather than people complying,” Holness added.
Low trust in social institutions fuels vaccine hesitancy
In acknowledging the general distrust within society and, of social institutions, Holness admitted that these were factors driving vaccine hesitancy.
However, Holness noted that building up social trust and, trust in general, would take time.
“And I’m satisfied that it is not something that is going to happen overnight, that we will be able to stand there and say to our public, ‘take the vaccine,’ and they will listen to us. That’s not going to happen right now,” said Holness.
“That however, doesn’t mean that we must not stand here and say it. And the instruction that has been given to all our ministers is that we must be ambassadors and continue to appeal to the people, reason with the people, explain to the people. It is a long tedious process. But be assured we are in no way overwhelmed or bewildered. We are going to continue to reason with the Jamaican people. And we are confident that it might take some time, but eventually they will come on board and take the vaccine,” he added.
Why are there low levels of trust in Jamaican society?
While staying clear of providing an assessment as to why there were low levels of trust within the society, Holness did offer some insight on what he and his administration were doing to address the issue.
“So what this government has done at all times, is to be open and transparent about whatever we’re doing. The public can’t say that they have never been updated or don’t know or something is done clandestinely. We make ourselves open to review,” said Holness.
“When there are issues, we own up to it, and we take action. And we try to deliver the best results that we can. And I think any objective viewer of this administration would say that we have performed credibly given the circumstances, both those within our control and those outside of our control, ” he added.
Social capital is an umbrella term that is used to refer to social relationships and includes concepts such as, social networks, civic engagement, norms of reciprocity, and generalised trust.