A Struggling Economy: Jamaica and U.S. Relations
In “Jamaica : a guide to the people, politics, and culture” Marcel Bayer asserts that almost every country in the Caribbean since colonialism has been affected, in one way or another, by the rule of the United States. According to Bayer, the United States’ influence on the Caribbean has been perpetuated by four American interests: 1) the encouragement of trade, 2) the protection of U.S. investments, 3)the formation of alliances to prevent intervention and 4) the promotion of regional support for U.S. international goals (Bayer, 39). In alignment with Bayer’s statement, many historians, politicians and economists alike have ...view middle of the document...
Today there are over 2,695,867 people living in Jamaica. (CIA Report, 1) According to the CIA’s national report, the Jamaican population consists of 90.9% blacks, 1.3% East Indians, 0.2% whites, 0.2% Chinese, 7.3% of mixed ancestry and 0.1% other (CIA, 3). Like most third world countries, the history of Jamaica has been characterized by many shifts in power. For instance, in 1958 the Arawaks were eradicated, in 1670 the Spanish were defeated by the English and the English slave-traders dominated the Jamaican market until the Maroon takeover in 1831. (Bayer, 7-13) Consequently, overtime Jamaica has changed from being a plantocracy to being a crown colony to finally becoming a “constitutional parliamentary democracy” (CIA, 2).
After Jamaica gained independence from Britain in 1962, two individuals, Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamente, sought to establish a framework to sustain the economic and social development of their country. Although N. Manley and Bustamente initially had similar political intentions, their separate goals eventually led to the emergence of two opposing political parties in Jamaica - The People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaican Labor Party (JLP). The PNP was established under Norman Manley and was later taken over by his son, Michael Manley. In contrast, the JLP was formed under Bustamente and later succeeded by Edward Seaga.
Historically, the PNP was deeply influenced by nationalist and Christian thinking and leaned more towards socialism until Michael Manley’s renewed policy change in 1989 (Bayer, 20). At present the People’s National Party is still in power, and has been led by the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Percival James Patterson since 1992. In contrast, the JLP are advocates of a liberal economic policy and have resembled the goals of the U.S. government. Although the CIA has identified other political organizations in Jamaica, like Bruce Golding’s National Democratic Movement (NDM), this paper will draw primarily on periods and political years that significantly affected the Jamaican economic decline.
For instance, during the Michael Manley Period the Jamaican government fell into a vicious cycle of loans, debt and repayment. Due to acute currency shortage and the difficulty of finding other foreign creditors, Jamaica was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the “lender of last resort” (Mankiw, 505). Working under the IMF, the Jamaican government had to comply with strict conditions and economic and social policies. In 1977 and 1978, Manley signed two agreements with the IMF which cut government spending and drastically reduced basic subsidies in Jamaica (Bayer, 32). Since then the IMF has been a permanent factor in Jamaica’s economy and politics. Although these political moves have significantly affected the Jamaican government, this paper will focus even further on some of the economic and social upturns and downturns in Jamaica that have...