Many writers have excused Jamaica’s poor economic performance by blaming or ascribing it to the global melt down. While I will admit that that occurrence affected visitor arrivals, Jamaica’s economic woes were set in motion long ago. Let me hive off one little piece of our unreadiness.
We built the mercantile trade of the Maritime Provinces in Canada. Pickled fish, flour and salted cod were the basic items of our imports and Canada supplied our needs abundantly. Out of that trade, the Bank of Nova Scotia (the origin of the goods was Nova Scotia) was built. We also provided a boon to Canadian shipping in the sense that Canadian National Steamships had at least two vessels tied up in the Halifax-Kingston trade weekly. I can remember seeing the S.S. Dufferin Bell and the S.S. Dufferin Park at various times tied up at the railway pier – they were so prevalent, it is as if they never left port.
Nobody ever thought that the Canadian trade was one-sided, and that there was such a fact of life as reciprocity of trade. No Jamaican farmer or entrepreneur, to my knowledge, ever tried to sell bananas to the Canadians; no citrus, nothing out of our agriculture. Please do not tell me that our foodstuff would have been exotic and not palatable! After all, when the Winnipeg Grenadiers were stationed at Up Park Camp, Kingston, what the hell you think we fed them and so developed in Canadian palates a taste for: Jamaican women, Wray & Nephew products and good Jamaican foods!
Long before NAFTA we had seen signs of the European Common Market playing with our quotas in Britain, since Britain wanted to be in Europe. We never gave thought to Canada and a tit for tat (reciprocal trade). Believe me, the Maritime Provinces (then the poorer part of the Dominion) needed us.
One Jamaican company tried to substitute Norwegian cod for the Canadian but it never got far.
To show how the Canadians were into us, during the Federation of the West Indies, they encouraged us to go for dominion status. As a goodwill gesture they gave the Federation two ships the Federal Palm and the Federal Maple to connect the disparate Islands.
We lost the opportunity of negotiating with Canada for some benefits; instead we are mendicants to CIDA programmes.
So, the opportunity to have a living agriculture on which we could build an infrastructure, more so at a time when we held the knife handle, was lost. We continued after all that to import Canadian redwood shingles, inter alia and the pickled fish and flour trade is as good and as strong as ever, but we have been weakened by our own inefficiencies and ineffectiveness and now we seek to blame all others but ourselves.