Jamaica seems to have some dark economic clouds on the horizon and that has been so for a long time wherein our economy has been in recession for a number of years.

The country’s productivity and even attitude to work has been in free fall while crime and other antisocial ills spiral out of control. No one seems to have the answer so everyone waits for a messianic figure to bail us out. This is the genesis of the present foreign exchange dilemma and there is only one way out of this dilemma, a combination of hard work production for local consumption/import substitution and exports to earn well needed pounds, Euros, dollars and other valuable foreign currencies.

While the Americans factories have been idled and ready to produce at the push of a button our factories and productive capacity has been totally decimated therefore the opportunities that would normally exist for our goods becoming more attractive to foreign buyers do not exist because there is hardly anything to capitalize on those opportunities. Most of our exports depend heavily on imported raw material and as the dollar devalues the goods or services become more uncompetitive.

A taxi man who I used to take in the late 1980s on a $6 journey that now costs $400 in his now extinct Hillman Minx, with the light on the dashboard, suggested to me the dollar was being weakened by some wicked big men. I pointed out to him that that was not exactly so and for a moment think of Jamaica as a lazy man who does not work, but manages somehow to wear the best clothes, makes a lot of noise, have several top end phones, goes to all the clubs and dances, drives his own car, and is fat and eats well. He manages to do this by borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, from John to pay Peter then from Mary to pay John and so he continues for years while eloquently convincing lenders that they are doing the best thing for themselves while in fact he is operating a pyramid scheme.

Jamaica through its government has engaged in an almost perpetual pyramid scheme accelerating a most massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich while decimating the culture of production and hard work replacing it with a thriving industry of laziness Jamaica style, where it appears better to put money in government paper or higher yielding alternative investment schemes, close down your factories and other real industries to join paper hustlers who are today the only ones that can still be boasting of billion dollar profits.

Go down to Asheniem Road in Kingston look at what is left of the glass factory. It appears as though it had been bombed several times. If that photograph was shown to me before I would have immediately thought of Iraq or Afghanistan. The industrial park in that area has very little left in it.

I believe the governor of the Bank of Jamaica and the minister of finance  see the problem and are at their wits end as how to end this high interest scheme which influences the interest rates at the local banks.

I still hear little talk of production, hard work and foreign exchange earning. Like tomatoes in the market two weeks ago were as low as $20 and $30 per pound and as the supply decreases today it is now between $70 and $100 per pound, the foreign exchange as a commodity for sale in a market behaves no different from red peas or tomatoes.

Jamaica must pull out all the stops to rebuild our productive capacity, stabilize the dollar and as a recent World Bank report recommends, the best hope for countries like Jamaica to survive is by going into manufacturing.

I am no economist but whatever the formula, it cannot be more talk as usual. We need urgent action along with a dose of nationalism where we cease being a “Rompin Shop”. We should buy Jamaica, build Jamaica and put nation over partisan politics, nastiness, corruption, improprieties, greed and selfishness.

Michael Spence

Categories: Business

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