Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Economy and the people

Published:Thursday | February 14, 2019 | 12:00 AM


Prior to Independence, Jamaica’s economy was focused on agriculture, with the majority of the labour force employed in the production of sugar, banana, and tobacco. Since Independence, mining, manufacturing, remittance, and tourism are the most important components of Jamaica’s economy. In the 1980s, the State reduced its role in the economy due to structural adjustments and economic liberalisation. During the 1990s, a financial crisis caused the Government to bail out industries and financial institutions.

Jamaica took on huge debt, and the Jamaican dollar constantly devalued against the United States (US) dollar. The US is Jamaica’s number-one trading partner. Massive unemployment, crime, inflation, and huge external debt grew proportionally with Jamaica’s economic challenges.

All is not lost: for the past 10 years, growth has been positive and the national debt has been reduced to 104 per cent of gross domestic product. Official unemployment is at 9.6 per cent. Crime is still high, mainly because the economic development has not reached all the population. A gang and crime culture has developed that will take a concentrated effort to mitigate. Aggressive policing will help, but it will not stop a next generation of Jamaicans to turn to a life of crime.

The Government and the private sector need to work together to ensure that more economic development reaches the marginalised. Also, social interventions such as family support for at-risk youth need to be aggressively implemented. If Jamaica continues to lose its youths (a significant number) to lawlessness, Jamaica will have a tumultuous future. Deal with the present problems, but build a better future with a focus on the youths and their families.

Brian E. Plummer