Wed | Jun 20, 2018

Letter of the Day | Blame modern-day governors, not enslavers, for Jamaica's backwardness

Published:Tuesday | March 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Since modern Jamaicans were never the victims of slavery, they cannot be entitled to reparation. Advocates of reparation, however, assert that present-day Jamaicans have been disadvantaged as a result of slavery. But this argument falls apart when closely scrutinised.

Individuals born in the immediate post-Emancipation period were obviously at a disadvantage. They experienced racism and found it difficult to acquire financing from banks and other institutions. As a result of the creation of political parties and eventually Independence, the conditions of the masses gradually improved. Therefore, it is more likely that contemporary Jamaicans have suffered as a result of crime, corruption and low productivity.

Crime has been facilitated by garrison politics, a modern phenomenon. The economic impact of crime on the country is well documented. According to the World Bank (2011), if Jamaica had been able to reduce crime levels to those of Costa Rica, GDP would grow by 5.4 per cent annually.

Further, the negative impact of corruption as an impediment to investment has also been examined by the World Bank and other organisations. Corruption also results in the wastage of resources that could have been used to develop the country's infrastructure.

 

Productivity decline

 

From 1972 to 2007, productivity declined by 1.3 per cent. If the country had seen growth in productivity in that period, citizens would be richer and have a higher quality of life. A possible reason for low productivity could be the insufficient investment made in education and training by previous administrations. Research conducted by the Caribbean Policy Research Instituted, for example, indicates that most Jamaican workers lack certification.

It is clear that the problems plaguing Jamaica's development are by-products of the faults of political leaders. Proponents of reparation also fail to understand that Jamaicans do not deserve reparation, because they suffered no economic harm as a result of slavery.

It is often posited that the slave trade depleted the labour force of African countries affected by slavery and this is true. It is also correct that the slave trade affected the development of local industries in such states. But according to Nunn (2007), if the slave trade did not exist, Africa would be richer, but it would still be in the category of a developing region.

Jamaica is a developing country with a higher per capita income than countries like Nigeria and West Africa. Therefore, if our ancestors had stayed in any of these countries, we would be worse off. Additionally even if a country like Nigeria had a higher per capita income, life in Jamaica would be better; since Nigeria has weaker institutions and performs worse on social indicators than Jamaica.

LIPTON MATTHEWS

lo_matthews@yahoo.com