Couple of weeks ago I watched the 2001 Jamaican documentary entitled, Life and Debt by Stephanie Black, watch it here, and it made me curious about the political history of Jamaica; more importantly Jamaican politics and its relationship with money. The film touches on the failed Free Zones of the late 90’s, the drop in sale of bananas and the near lock down of the dairy industry in the early 2000’s as well as the role that The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had to play in all of it. All this is juxtaposed with the lie of prosperity that Jamaica sells and that the tourists choose to believe. Watch out for: Dr. Michael Witter, whenever he is on screen, the man steals the show, and pay close attention to the the arrogance and bigotry of the rat-faced IMF bastard who is interviewed (sorry not sorry). Lastly, it was through the film’s interview with former Prime Minister, Michael Manley that I became more respectful of his vision for Jamaica during the 70’s and 80’s; however I am not sure he’d be proud of where we are more that 40 years later.
According to Mr. Manley, after Independence we were barely on our feet as a new but uninformed nation however, it was not until the 1973 increase in oil worldwide, that we quickly began to sink. We turned to the IMF who gave us money rather than a long term solution. It was The Organisation’s restrictions that really caused the problems. Jamaica could only spend so much therefore we had to cutback on certain sector projects that never had much funding in the first place like: building new hospitals or hiring better trained teachers. So, if we couldn’t improve our core sectors how could we grow economically?
Devaluing the Dollar
Jamaica needed to increase exports and decrease imports so the IMF’s plan was to make foreign currency more expensive which would help the economy. Now, I am no economist but even to me that sounds like a bad idea. The effects of a devalued dollar included:
inflation, the cost of goods and services like medicine and healthcare increased; there were wage freezes, so the same salary could buy less things; increased globalisation/creation of the free market, where Jamaica competed with the rest of the world at an unfair advantage. Foreign items were cheaply produced and cheaply sold therefore this pushed aside our chance at self reliance.
So it comes that we do not meet the IMF targets (shocker), what to do? We don’t have another choice, we borrow another loan while the debt rises. It is an elder Rastafarian at minute 30:07 in the documentary who says, “You see we are so poor that these rich people use them money to really jus’– [they] push them money before [us] like is a gift but it really a trap.” Preach!
The way I see it, 55 years later, the government is still screwing us over. We have managed to replace one white master (The Crown) with another white master (The IMF) and now we seem to be getting two more (The Chinese and for young people, Social Media). I don’t think any other journalist has summed up the lie of Emancipendence this year more than Ian Boyne. In his article for August 06, 2017 he writes:
“In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, our young people were idealistic, fired up with zeal for building a truly independent and strong Jamaica. Young people were interested in ideas. They were talking about Black Power, Rastafari, African liberation, cultural identity, socialism, nationalism… Today our young people know more about what is going on in American pop culture than about what is going on in Jamaica… In times like these, we have a dancehall artiste like Ishawna dissing cultural icon Miss Lou, flaunting her cultural backwardness and ignorance.”
So no, as a young person I don’t feel freed from slavery, and I don’t feel as if we are particularly independent either. Most young people I know are looking for a way out of Jamaica or a way to get rich, the crime rate is sky high which suggests no one is their brother’s keeper; it is all about what I can get and who I can get it from rather than what I can give. I want Emancipation and Independence celebrations to feel like a privilege not an obligation, like they are days earned not given, so when we gather at the National Stadium to watch the fireworks explode in the sky, it feels like an occasion that I can’t miss rather than just another holiday. — Bless.
[cover art by : Mac Tey]