Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Letter of the Day | Crime too high a charge on economy

Published:Tuesday | August 16, 2016 | 8:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

A recent study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in conjunction with the World Bank, concluded that crime has cost Jamaica between 60-90 per cent of Gross Domestic Product growth over the past 40 years. I wonder how many Jamaicans can truly fathom how high a cost that was to the country's economy. Think of how much further ahead we could have been as a nation if crime did not extract such a high price. We must overcome this disadvantage!

We must also accept the fact that our situation is largely self-inflicted. Atonement begins with the confession of sins, so having accepted this, we must now move with dispatch to correct our errors. But first, let me state, if I can, the scope of the opportunity cost of crime in Jamaica.

The same study noted that a lower crime rate would boost Jamaica's economic growth by 5.4 per cent annually if our homicides fell to the level of Costa Rica. And there are other scenarios, including the fact that when compared to other regional competitors with lower crime rates, such as Barbados, Jamaica's hotel room rates are discounted by at least 50 per cent. Think how much better off we would be if our room rates were not so cheap.

This mix of crime, including violence and corruption, has also cost us from the perspective of added production expenses for goods and services because of high security costs, and it has cost us, too, in terms of discouraging investment, therefore slowing economic growth and development. Crime must rank among the main negatives preventing Jamaica from achieving First-World status.

 

A BAD POSITION

 

The mix of crime, violence and corruption also serves to discourage risk-taking by entrepreneurs and innovators.

These negatives are both economic and social. There is a social cost when praedial larceny denies a farmer of his or her crop and he/she cannot educate his or her children to an appropriate standard. The net effect is to make investors wary of investing, as the fear is that there will be lower-than-projected returns on the investment in blood, sweat and tears.

Criminality also places Jamaica in a bad position compared to both our regional competitors and those farther afield who are not faced with such high levels of expense for security. It is therefore self-evident that sustainable economic growth and development cannot occur without due consideration to the impact that national security has on the economy.

CHRISTENE BLACK

Red Hills PO