James “Jimmy” Moss-Solomon: His Thoughts, Ideas & Perspectives: A Book Review

James “Jimmy” Moss-Solomon: His Thoughts, Ideas & Perspectives is a collection of Jimmy’s writings which were first published in Public Opinion (publicopinion.news, Jamaica’s first online newspaper founded by  Walter H. Scott) between 2017 and 2021.

James “Jimmy” Moss-Solomon: His Thoughts, Ideas and Perspectives

Who Was Jimmy Moss-Solomon?

Even if you didn’t know him personally, once you live in Jamaica, the name “Jimmy Moss-Solomon” isn’t strange to you. He frequented the radio talk shows and he wrote columns for our daily newspapers and was a frequently called upon thought-leader on a wide range of topics. If you were at one time or another employed by GraceKennedy Ltd, or if you were a beneficiary of the GraceKennedy Foundation, or if you were a student at the Mona School of Business and Management at the University of the West Indies, you at the very least knew the name Jimmy Moss-Solomon. If you were lucky enough, you actually interacted with him.

Jimmy Moss-Solomon was the son of one of the founding fathers of GraceKennedy Ltd., James Moss-Solomon, and speaks fondly of literally growing up in that business, learning the ropes from the ground up. He went on to university in Canada but returned home and assumed management roles in different subsidiaries within the group. At the time of his passing, Jimmy Moss-Solomon was chairman of the Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation and a Director of the GraceKennedy Foundation.  

I Knew Jimmy Moss-Solomon Personally

I was employed to Agro Grace Ltd. when I first met Mr. Moss, as we called him. GraceKenndy Ltd. was just rolling out the Balanced Score Card as a management tool to all its subsidiaries, and Mr. Moss was knighted as chief evangelist for this innovative tool and Agro Grace the pilot for its roll out. I was struck by Mr. Moss’s practical, down-to-earth approach to getting us the management team on-board with the why and how re: the Balanced Score Card. We collaborated over several sessions, our first steps at roll-out quite halting and unsure but buttressed by Mr. Moss’s simple questions to us: What does success look like to you? How do you want your customers to feel about you? How will you make them feel this way? How can you measure how well you are doing it? I subsequently moved on to other units within the GK Group and was part of developing several other Balanced Scorecards for these units, never once being intimidated or unsure of how to proceed, due solely to the pragmatic, patient, expert teaching and coaching I received from Mr. Moss at inception of the program.

Jimmy Moss-Solomon Photo courtesy Jamaica Observer

Why Jimmy’s thoughts? Why Now?

It is ironic that in this information age, we have devolved into communicating and therefore processing, in soundbites of 280 characters. Throughout the ages, words have inspired, have articulated, have illuminated, have challenged, and expressed.  Words are the medium by which we explain and wrangle new insights from the world around us. In order to solve a problem, one first has to diagnose it and to understand the root cause. It takes language to do this. The solution too needs words, needs language. Jimmy used his words to provide a fantastic starting point for further analysis, discussion, and identifying the fix.

How James “Jimmy” Moss-Solomon: His Thoughts, Ideas & Perspectives is Structured

In the words of Walter Scott, founder of Public Opinion, in his writings, Jimmy Moss-Solomon shows up as a thinker, scholar, researcher, teacher, historian, philosopher, visionary, sage, prophet, griot, storyteller, humorist…totally multi-dimensional.

To simply publish Jimmy’s thoughts in chronological order, would be sufficient a tribute to the man himself, and would provide us with a valuable, easy to refer to record of his writing. However, Glynis Salmon and her team took on the mammoth task of sorting his columns into four distinct themes to make review and contemplation easier for us:

  1. Society and Culture
  2. Leadership and Governance
  3. Economy, Finance and Trade
  4. Management

In section 1, Society and Culture, the heart of the man is on full display. Jimmy minces no words as he details what he refers to as the devolution of Jamain society. This is beyond mere verandah talk and handwringing, though. In every single one of his not-overly-long think pieces, Jimmy always includes possible approaches to fixing the issues. He bravely tackles such topics as the failure of our education system and the dire consequences of same, the underground drug economy and its possible role in the national one, he speaks to issues of language and values, and he is to be forgiven for what could be construed as an old man’s penchant for backward glances to a gentler, kinder Jamaica. Afterall, in the words of Marcus Garvey, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

He asks the hard questions in Section 2: Leadership and Governance. Even as he looks back, Jimmy consistently anticipates the future and challenges those who are our leaders in both the public and private sectors to do more. His piece on productivity is one that certainly those of us who live and work in the corporate area can relate to. Why does everywhere open at the same time? Why don’t tax offices open until 9pm and on weekends? What about a light-rail system to move us around quickly and efficiently? In one column, though, his despondency shone through without much hope, an uncharacteristic stance to be sure. This had to do with the so-called Petrojam Scandal.

He held informed radical positions on tax policy which you can review for yourself in Section 3: Economy, Finance and Trade. His repeated exhortation on various national budget presentations was to focus on the long game. He was impatient of political expediency and truly wanted to see Jamaica and Jamaicans flourish and win. He tackled the role of the Central Bank and the National Housing Trust with courage, and innovative, informed thought.

His characteristic methodical approach to parsing the issues shone brightly in Section 4: Management. Jimmy had the ability to succinctly frame the problem and identify the attendant risks if not fixed. He integrated facts garnered from meticulous research and applied them expertly to the issues at hand. And then he outlined the solution, always in practical, doable steps. On the very current topic of water supply in Jamaica, his practical mind is on full display in his recommendations for improvement in this area. He expended a great deal of intellectual capital on the issue of the Covid-19 pandemic. In hindsight, it makes for interesting reading. How will we choose to navigate another pandemic? What lessons have we learned? What will we do differently and better?  

One gets a strong sense of community and regionalism in Jimmy’s writings. He never failed to pay tribute to various notable and some not so notable Jamaicans upon their passing and commented on various regional happenings in brief at the beginning of several of his pieces.

Jimmy Moss-Solomon Photo courtesy Jamaica Gleaner

What I Love about the Structure of James “Jimmy” Moss-Solomon: His Thoughts, Ideas & Perspectives

As if arranging Jimmy’s writings into four distinct themes to make review easy and cohesive was not enough, the publisher gave us even more. This compilation of Jimmy’s writings over a four-year period gives us added value in the form of an index. This makes it simple to simply search by topic or keyword and get Jimmy’s perspectives and proposed fixes to the issues plaguing our island nation and region.

At first, I felt that the date of each column should have been placed under the title instead of at the end of the column. I felt it would have added context to what Jimmy was saying. But in retrospect, placing the date as a footnote allowed me to review and evaluate his thoughts without bias. Good job, Glynis!

Who should read James “Jimmy” Moss-Solomon: His Thoughts, Ideas & Perspectives

  • Journalists who do more than simply report on the latest announcements by politicians.
  • Students of political science, sociology, psychology, and economic development
  • Current and aspiring policy makers and legislators
  • Young people who love this country
  • Old people who love this country
  • Anyone with a curious mind who is not satisfied to have randoms impacting their brains with (ill-informed) soundbites consisting of 280 characters

In Summary

That Jimmy was a great intellect is evident in his writings. Who else could produce think-pieces every fortnight, on such a wide range of topics consistently and uninterrupted over four and half years between 2017 and 2021? Who else could combine humour and wit with contemplation of serious issues in a way that grabbed and then held our attention to get us thinking? Jimmy’s aim was never to foist his opinion on society to be known as the thought leader of the day. Jimmy was always thinking ahead to what is next, challenging us to level up and change things for the better, and his aim was to get us all thinking this way. His thoughts were provided as a starting point for conversation and discussion to agree on the fix and then to move forward as one, with that agreed on fix to a better end point.

When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.”

This is an old African proverb that thankfully is not true in the case of Jimmy Moss-Solomon. He took the time to write out his thoughts, his analyses, his perspectives, and his proposed solutions. More than a record of his legacy, more than a tribute to the man and his work, beyond being a gift to his family, friends and colleagues, Jimmy’s writings can serve as a springboard for change. That’s up to us. I know this is what he’d want: action and progress. They are available to us now in a format that provides access and makes review easy. James Moss-Solomon is now among the immortals. The library is still standing.

Thanks to the GraceKennedy Foundation for funding this project, and to Glynis Salmon who sensitively and expertly compiled and published James “Jimmy” Moss-Solomon: His Thoughts, Ideas & Perspectives.

Contact Bala Press at 10 Hopedale Avenue, Kingston 6, Jamaica, telephone 876-978-0556 or 876 491-4120 to secure your copy.

GraceKennedy CEO Tribute to Jimmy Moss-Solomon

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