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Norris McDonald | Damion Crawford and Jamaica’s struggles under ‘disaster capitalism’

Published:Tuesday | March 12, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Norris McDonald
Damion Crawford

Damion Crawford appears to have stepped into a ‘pitty-me-lickle’ fire ants nest by bringing up the issue of race and class politics.

However, what is wrong with healthy political debate? Wasn’t that the way it was in the 1960s to 1980s?

Nowadays, there is not much political and ideological debates. This is what makes it seem strange to hear a politician talk about fighting a struggle “against the system and history”.

My concern here is strictly the political issues. Why did Crawford think this struggle against “the system” is needed?

It must be ‘the capitalist system’, and if so, how does he plan to carry this fight?

Right now, there are no clear political and ideological lines separating both parties, the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

One could argue that “the system” has co-opted and controls both parties, thereby preventing them from serving the interest of the black grass roots.

If the PNP leadership is going back to its historical, grass-roots foundation, maybe this will be a good thing.

Also, clear political choices would be once again offered to the electorate.


The prevailing politics in the country appears to be based on the issue of who can better manage the International Funds (IMF) structural adjustment programme and who ‘can pass the IMF test’.

This approach, quite obviously, does not offer a vision of the future regarding a serious long-term economic development strategy for Jamaica.

If the national strategy of both parties is just to pass the IMF tests, borrow more loans, to pass more test, to repay previous loans – this would just be a ‘kunumunu, poppy show’ politics.

The IMF austerity programme, and the disaster it creates, was discussed by Naomi Kline in her book The Shock Doctrine (2007). Kline says that years of IMF-type austerity measures only create one economic disaster after another, without any true signs of progress being achieved.

This term, “shock doctrine”, describes methods used to shock the population into submissiveness.

Kline further clarifies that “wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes or natural disasters” are used, while the public is disoriented, “to push through radical pro-corporate measures”.

These measures are usually the IMF-type policies of market liberalisation.

Milton Friedman was one of the main architects of this “shock doctrine”, she says. The idea is to rapidly dismantle the state sector, open up the national markets, devalue the national currency, and curb the power of trade unions.

Between 1973 and 1998, the world saw how “the shock doctrine” was applied in Chile.

A democratic government was overthrown in a brutal military coup. Thousands of Chileans were killed and tortured. The same pattern was followed in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and other countries where the IMF doctrine was imposed under the stranglehold of crypto-fascist governments.


We have the “shock doctrine” and “disaster capitalism” at work in Iraq.

We are now seeing this same “shock doctrine” being applied in Venezuela.

The aim: to stop the progressive gains, break up the state oil company PDVSA, and sell off the assets to the multinational corporations.

I believe that Jamaica’s 40-year IMF hiatus fits into the political concept, tactics, and strategy of this “shock doctrine” and “disaster capitalism” that Naomi Kline has identified.

Real economic growth rates and poverty trends are two quick indicators of overall economic performance.

Since 1980, Jamaica’s long-term, real growth rate has been stuck between the one and two per cent range. Now, if Jamaica’s real economic growth rate remains so horribly, dismally low, how can poor black people ever pulled out of poverty?

Poverty levels affecting the black working class and, in my opinion, as a measure of economic progress, have been very high. Roughly 406,000 Jamaicans now “live in or near extreme poverty”, the Jamaica Gleaner reports.

This is “disaster capitalism” at work.

This is the same situation many other poor countries have faced worldwide. Since 1980 until now, well over US$12.3 trillion has been drained out of the world’s poorer countries to subsidize the crisis prone, first-world economies – United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, etc.

Illegal capital flight, of another US$13.2 trillion from the poor countries to the rich countries, has further robbed the developing countries of investment capital they created.


Given this reality, a drastic change is needed in Jamaica’s economic approach.

How this can be achieved is a matter of further debate.

Damion Crawford is right regarding the need for a systematic struggle. But will his party go along?

My own view is for Government, and the private sector, to focus more aggressively on developing the agricultural sector as the basis to develop national capitalism.

Tax credits to private business can boost investments. Therefore, a tax credit of 100 per cent would certainly help to attract more investment into agriculture and agro-business development.

Tax holidays, in addition – say between 10 and 25 years – would help to develop our own nation’s markets.

In addition, the national economic planners need to aggressively focus on reducing food imports; develop food export market; expand food agricultural market; develop the network of feeder/parochial roads; revitalize the countryside, to boost tourism; urgently tackle youth unemployment, and; tackle crime and violence.

That is the real systematic struggle that I think is needed.

That is the Bitta Truth!

Norris McDonald is an economic journalist, social researcher and political analyst. Email feedback to and