JAMAICA DEVELOPMENT DELAY: OWNING RESTRUCTURING RATHER THAN BEING RESTRUCTURED – Part 2 by Prof. Kirk Atkinson

Jamaica-Firefly

The reggae artists for whom the late Bob Marley is the iconic brand were mostly victims of spatial dislocation, residents of Jamaica’s counterculture; the world of marijuana, rebellion, Rastafarianism, millenarianism, poverty, violence, love, soccer, collectivism and music.

With musical instruments, personal and collective will to survive, raw untamed talent and a seemingly innate resistance, reggae artists triumphed, and in the process, elevated Jamaica to global recognition. Bob Marley is memorialized in Serbia, of all places, where his statue is displayed in the Serbian village of Banatski Sokolac.

A similar narrative can be articulated about the famous athletes who have become global icons as a result of personal and collective restructuring rather than a restructuring process owned and managed by the state.

That is to say that the state and the Jamaican political and economic elites have not been the driver behind the global success of the artists and athletes who have restructured themselves from the subaltern strata of Jamaican society to become iconic figures known the world over.

What is clear is that the state and the elites have reaped the benefit of personal and collective restructuring without investing their capital, moving in to appropriate the rewards once the global recognition is a fait accompli.

Contrast personal and collective restructuring with state and external restructuring; the latter two restructuring processes ignore cultural assets and talents that are rooted in subaltern culture that is the cultural context and talent of the majority of Jamaicans. This accounts for sixty percent or so of the Jamaican masses for whom the state and external restructuring do not touch their life world. The reality is that state and external restructuring have led to downgrading of community, cultural, personal and collective assets. State and external restructuring have reinforced economic hardship, degrading of educational institutions, the degrading of community cultural assets and the down grading of biological survival so that basic needs such as food/nutrition and shelter are hard to come by. The contradiction is that these manifestations of downgrading are the measure of success in fiscal targets set by the state and external agents such as the IMF and for which the sixty percent of Jamaicans have no say in setting are met.

State and external restructuring has left Jamaica poorer in term of its cultural assets and its human capital. The opportunity cost of this kind of restructuring is that the potential talent and creativity of the population is never nurtured or renovated.  The history of state and external restructuring since the late 1960 to the present has been a systematic wasting of human capital as well as the physical infrastructure capital of the island. Schools in urban depressed areas where population is concentrated are allowed to deteriorate to the point where they are no longer functional as educational institutions. A look at the annual budget of Jamaica sums-up what state and external restructuring are all about. The annual budgets are replete with references to balancing the budget, restoring fiscal discipline, bringing down the national debt, meeting IMF targets and fulfilling the European Union criteria of good governance in order to qualify for external financing. A line item entry in the budget list the national assets for sale to foreign investors, but no line item listing for building schools, cultural centers, community economic development, investing in sports facilities where they are needed and investing in life-long learning.