To put this aspect of restructuring in global comparative perspective, Singapore’s fiscal budget is replete with line item entries addressing long-term improvement in human capital and productivity through investment in education, life-long learning, cultural centers/assets, community development, and sport facilities. State subsidy is set aside to ease the financial burden of students in their quest for meaningful education. The state in Singapore is purposive and rational in recognizing its human capital particularly the young people as its most important economic resource. Singapore is recognized as one of the most developed countries in the world with a human capital resource base globally recognized for its productivity, work ethic and discipline.
Both Jamaica and Singapore are highly indebted countries; Jamaica has a debt to GDP ratio of 135.7 percent as measured by the IMF, which ranks it in 2011 among the 7 most indebted states. Singapore ranks 9 with a debt to GDP ratio of 98.8 percent. This is where the similarity ends. Singapore has real achievements to show for its sovereign debt – a stable and progressive civilization. Since the end of colonialism Singapore has taken ownership of its restructuring process. It has restructured its society and has architected a process of development that is organic and adds up to total development. That is, in Singapore progress is not measured only in terms of GNP growth rate, stable money and physical infrastructure; but equally, progress is measured in terms of the collective improvement of the human potential of the society. No one is left behind. In Singapore restructuring starts with the basic assumption that improvement in human capital is what drives development and establishes the foundation of long-term prosperity. In Singapore restructuring is the means to the end of providing human security.
The Jamaican elites have historically not been human capital centered in their orientation towards development. This explains the historic neglect to invest in education, lifelong learning and skills training. The necessary public goods provision, such as healthcare, public health, law and order and affordable public housing are inadequately provisioned for. Yet these are fundamental preconditions for long-term development and prosperity.
The Jamaican elites have opted and continue to opt for a spatially disarticulated development process that produces enclaves of development with no organic linkages to the wider society; the tourism sector is the quintessential example of this. State and external restructuring have led to a systematic stripping and selling off the national patrimony of the Island. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the planter class engaged in similarly stripping and dispossessing the native population of their patrimony. While the planter class accumulated wealth on the back of slaves, indentured servants, peasants and the working class they never reinvested any of their ill-gotten wealth in improving the lives of the population of the Island.
The conclusion to be drawn from all this is that the elites in Jamaica, both the colonial version and post-colonial version, have the shared vision of viewing the masses of the population as objects to be exploited, but not worthy to invest their Capital in for the improvement of the social conditions of the masses. The planter class of the 19th century had a rationale for the vision they held of the Island and the masses – their destiny was never bund-up to the progress of the Island and the people in it. They were comprador elites. Their destiny and future were always Europe; so they were rational in their calculus in not wanting to invest to improve the Island and the population they exploited. The investment would not yield a return for them since they were itinerant exploiters.
Though this mentality remains intrinsic in the minds of the upper echelon in Jamaica today, the reality is, the canvas has drastically changed and exponentially so after the exodus in the 70’s. Jamaica is now technically owned by its nationals, the vast majority of whom have nowhere to go and without the recognition that real progress can only be achieved through investing in the development of its people, the country will continue to flounder through separatism and an excessive amount of capital wasted on punitive measures for those who have no other means and those who must continuously seek to protect their material acquisitions.
Kirk Atkinson Esq. Professor of Law, York University