Tue | Jul 27, 2021

Jamaica for Jamaicans

Published:Saturday | March 31, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:RECENTLY, I spent two months living in Montego Bay, visiting from Canada, and was struck by how much most of the Jamaican people are shut out of the prosperity, natural resources, and opportunity of their beautiful island.

Despite the promise of a new government, I heard little hope from the Jamaicans themselves that things would actually change for the better. And with a shocking national debt of US$1.6 trillion, there is absolutely no way that a small country like Jamaica could possible become solvent enough to address the high unemployment, terrible potholed roads, widespread poverty and lack of education for Jamaican youth - naming only a few problems plaguing this small island.

With only the tourism industry, a small tax base, and a small export industry, this debt will cripple any attempt for Jamaica to modernise and prosper. With the debt of 130 per cent of the gross domestic product, Jamaica may as well declare bankruptcy and start over, because the interest payment alone will preclude addressing any of the above stated problems. Borrowing more money from the International Monetary Fund, as I read the Government is planning to do, is sheer madness.

The tourism industry does not benefit most Jamaicans, as their salaries are so low that few even want to work this field. Tell me how someone can survive on $50 a week? The resorts are mostly foreign owned as well, so their real profits remain offshore.

undervalued art and craft

Workers even told me that the hotels tell tourist guests not to tip. Tourist shops are owned by Indian or Chinese nationals who hawk goods from their home states, thus shutting out local craft and artwork that could be sold to tourists. I even heard one group of tourists call the local craft market "the flea market". I saw many beautiful straw baskets, clay pottery and other artwork that is just not promoted to prosper local Jamaican artists.

The beaches are sealed off from locals by the hotels and resorts, and places like scenic Dunn's River Falls become an expensive tourist trap that shifts local Jamaicans out from enjoying one of their national treasures because the entrance fee is far too expensive for most local people to afford.

Jamaicans need to take back their island, redistribute the wealth and natural attributes of their island, and demand that their politicians show some leadership and vision. Talk is cheap, time is running out and drowning in debt will prevent any real reform. Get a grip on reality, Government, and do something real for Jamaica and the Jamaican people before it is too late.

Suzanne Charlton