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Jamaica: From economic independence to imprisonment

By FABIAN CAMPBELL

Monday, February 04, 2013    

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I have always been of the view that our current crisis is not something that has been created by decisions that were implemented five, 10 or even two decades ago, but by decisions that were made from as early as the first few years that Jamaica gained its Independence from Britain.

We can all point fingers at our current politicians, but the truth of the matter is that they have inherited many of the issues causing this despicable socio-economic stagnation with which most of us as Jamaicans are faced.

I am not saying that the current crop of politicians are not in any way responsible for some of the latest problems, but the majority of the blame has to go to those before them. Instead of name-calling, I would prefer to analyse the various decades since Independence and the political policies employed, thereby we can better understand why Jamaica has become an imprisoned nation by virtue of this impending IMF deal.

Jamaica became an independent nation in the early stages of the 1960 to 1970 decade, when the British relinquished its power on August 6, 1962. This meant that for the first time since slavery, Jamaica was operated by a locally elected prime minister and Cabinet. It has been that way since then, even today with the country's two major political parties vying to become the nation's governing body.

It is no secret that Jamaica during its first decade as an independent nation experienced little if any economic problems. It was within this period that Jamaica experienced significant socio-economic growth, through road

and school-building programmes, as well as fortifying the country's economic stability.

The decade of 1970 to 1980 saw Jamaica relinquishing its strong economic system for one which was and still is plagued with all the symptoms of a socially and economically decaying system. I can basically say that our country's alignment with Cuban-like policies brought us more problems than success.

The question is, why change a system that was working effectively? Not only did the policy changes bring socio-economic stagnation -- through brain drain -- inflation and violence, but also turned us into a nation of beggars.

To make matters worse, both political parties were one way or another implicated in the gang wars that were fought with guns -- a new phenomenon to Jamaica's culture.

Also, the oil crisis

had caused the then Administration to enter into the first IMF agreement.

The 1980 to 1990 decade was another turning point in our political policies, as with the changing of the guard from one political party to the next, came some improvement in our impoverished economy, to the point where there was some form of stability.

The new policies employed were more in line with those of the United States, where a more democratic approach was taken towards governance.

However, these changes did not come easy, as the 1980 election was marred with gun and gang violence in which many innocent lives were lost. Also, some of the political policies employed by the then

1980s Administration

re-introduced our nation to the horrendous subjection of the IMF's rigid policies.

The 1990 to 2000 decade saw changes within the ranks of the governing party as well as with its policies that were to a certain extent forced by a growing financial crisis. In its early stages of governance during the 1990s, the government at the time sought to continue with the economic rebuilding even to the point where, in 1995, the then prime minister had said goodbye to the IMF.

This did not mean that Jamaica was out of the woods, by any means, because the Finsac situation that developed caused many of the nation's small businesses to collapse. Many blamed the then finance minister for the way he dealt with the situation, citing bad management as the cause of the failure of so many of the nation's businesses. However, despite a poor showing from the governing party in dealing with crime and violence, as well as the economy, the Opposition party failed to usurp power from them, mainly because of a lack of unity among its members.

The 2000 to 2010 decade saw a continuation of the 1990s ruling party remaining in power up to 2007. This familiar trend was only broken after a second change in the ranks of the so-called Socialist party. It was during this same period that the opposing party had gained a new leader and one who had quickly gained popularity among the nation's people. It was this popularity that created the shift in governance in the 2007 election.

However, with the changing of political power came a glimpse of improvement in the nation's economy, mainly based on the renewed hope given to the people by the leader of the newly elected Government. This new hope was however short-lived, as the leader soon found himself in hot water after some unpopular decisions concerning a particular extradition request by the United States government.

Crime and violence again was the order of the day by May 2010, this time it was the criminal elements opposing the State. In the middle of all this, there was an impending loan agreement between the IMF and the government of Jamaica for yet another financial bailout. It was predominantly these issues mentioned that caused the Socialist party to return to power in the 2011 election and the growing distrust towards them as it relates to the civil servants over wage freezes and other issues.

Last year was no better, with a new party in power and I suspect the same for 2013, not for a lack of effort from the Government in trying to sign of on the agreement between themselves and the IMF, but because off the heavy economic burden that they have inherited just like the previous administration.

Not only is it clear that today's politicians cannot single-handedly take the blame for this crisis that we are currently faced, but it is abundantly clear even to a blind man that the former politicians of both parties were reckless, and some might say corrupt in dealing with the country's affairs.

The policies that have been implemented, especially those in the 1970s and 1980s, stand to be the two most sacrificial decades of decision making in Jamaica's political history. It is for these very reasons that on this day in 2013, the future is looking so gloomy for most Jamaicans, just like an incarcerated man not knowing if he will ever again feel like a free man.

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