Jamaica Political Reviews
Despite major challenges, Jamaica is moving in the right direction both in terms of poverty reduction, crime fighting and economic growth.
Jamaica often arouses associations with Bob Marley, reggae, rastafarianism, marijuana, dreadlocks, the idea of a tropical South Sea paradise, space, pirates, Blue Mountain coffee, and the world’s fastest sprinters – to name a few. All this is part of the truth, but it is not the whole picture. Although Jamaica has a strong and positive image, the country is also associated with serious social problems – poverty, drug-related violence, corruption and poor economic aspects. But in recent years, Jamaica has moved toward social improvement and economic growth.
Independence and optimism
When Jamaica gained its long-awaited independence and independence from the colonial power of Britain in 1962, the nation’s population was filled with boundless optimism. This can be heard clearly in today’s popular Jamaican music – ska – which is both upbeat and full of hope for the future. And the optimism was well-founded; In the first ten years after independence, the Jamaican economy grew by six percent a year. This was thanks to a burgeoning tourism industry, a lucrative manufacturing industry, a large agricultural industry (especially sugar and bananas) and, not least, the extraction and export of natural resources. According to Countryaah, Jamaica was then the world’s third largest producer of bauxite – the raw material used for aluminum production.
But after ten years of the Conservative Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) in power, the headwind had turned to headwind, hope was turned to despair, inflation was rising and economic growth had stagnated. This can be heard in the more low-key and apolitical rock steady, which is slower and more melancholy than its predecessor. The people were looking for new leadership, and in 1972 the leader of the second party in Jamaica, Social Democrat Michael Manley of the People’s National Party (PNP), was elected prime minister. He was well assisted by the then significant Rastafarian roots reggae movement.
But the choice of PNP led to an increasingly strained relationship with Jamaica’s closest ally, the United States, and the CIA was increasingly involved in destabilizing activities in Jamaica from the mid-1970s. The CIA’s activities in Jamaica culminated in 1980, in what was the country’s bloodiest election ever, with 889 electoral killings, and the reinstatement of the more US-friendly JLP, with Edward Seaga at the forefront.
The plethora of weapons coincided with the emergence of Jamaica as a strategically important hub for cocaine and marijuana smuggling from Colombia to the United States.
The CIA’s interference also led to large-scale imports of weapons into Jamaica, where area leaders – so-called dons – made sure their residents voted in the “right” party. Unfortunately, the plethora of weapons coincided with the emergence of Jamaica throughout the 1980s as a strategically important intermediate station on the central Caribbean corridor for cocaine and marijuana smuggling from Colombia to the United States. This has resulted in a significant infrastructure for criminal activity in Jamaica, and the country today has the third highest homicide rate in the world, with 1574 recorded killings in 2010.
In the short term, the Jamaican economy is expected to grow 1-2 percent a year. This is thanks in large part to the country’s skilled labor, but also requires increased productivity and the country’s ability to deal with the social problems that inhibit growth; poverty, unemployment, crime and corruption. In addition, the World Bank is involved in several development projects in Jamaica that focus on urban and rural development, HIV/AIDS-related work, education projects and projects to ensure safe and environmentally friendly energy supply.