What Jamaica Needs to Do
One of the most powerful desires possessed by returning Jamaicans has to do with the initial reason they left.
Most leave their island home for one of a few reasons: a weak economy that presents few opportunities for employment or advancement; crime that threatens the well-being of one’s self or family; deepening education or experience.
Most leave with a heartfelt feeling that their stay in “foreign” will not be a permanent one, and that one day they will be able to return. Most link the idea of returning with some material accomplishment, and convince themselves that they cannot return “empty-handed.” This idea leads few to return.
Many of those who do return, however, do so with some kind of idea of “what Jamaica needs to do.” Just about everyone has some kind of opinion, and also some kind of interest in finding real solutions. Those who return, do so with an optimism, that somehow a way can be found to create a new Jamaica – different from the one that played such a tremendous part in their leaving.
They have seen different, and more prosperous societies, and have worked in economies that grow without the problems of exploitation, stagnation and crime.
The problem is that there are no easy solutions.
I have been looking for some clue myself – or some set of seemingly coherent set of clues that might guide me, a recent returnee in my own efforts to make a profound difference.
Certainly, I am sure, a part of the answer has to with where we draw our spiritual wisdom, and how we Jamaicans do not sufficiently engage in our own personal development as individuals – themes that have echoed through this blog from entry to entry.
However, much “harder” solutions have seemed to be elusive to me, as I have never been satisfied by over-simplistic answers that sounded like partial solutions.
Until now, that is.
I have just finished reading the book “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs that that I can powerfully recommend as a must-read for Jamaicans who plan to return home.
I will not try to do the book justice after only a single read, but there are a few lines that stand out.
The world’s remaining challenge is not mainly to overcome laziness and corruption, but rather to take on geographic isolation, disease, vulnerability to climate shocks, and so on, with new systems of political responsibility that can get the job done.”
His thesis is simple: those of us who think that poverty is caused by cultural factors such as a widespread unwillingness to work hard, and official corruption by the rich and powerful are wrong, according to the data.
Instead, the data shows that countries that have a certain set of advantages find economic growth much easier to accomplish than others. The advantages are:
Good harbors, close contacts with the rich world, favorable climates, adequate energy sources, and freedom from epidemic diseases.
Countries that lack some of these advantages (or even all) are faced with an uphill battle to economic success.
His point is that lasting solutions need to be multi-faceted, and are beyond the reach of individual organizations with single-foci like the IMF and World Bank. He also makes the case that the reality of an inter-dependent and global world is that there is not a country on the earth that can get themselves out of poverty by itself.
Even those countries that discover windfalls of oil, gold and diamonds at a time when world prices are high are still structurally poor -- with the exception that they have won the equivalent of the global lottery.
Long-term economic growth comes from creating a particular kind of foundation that _allow_ growth to happen.
Each country has, according to the author, already committed itself to eliminate poverty in writing by creating such a foundation. I am in the process of looking for Jamaica’s Poverty Reduction Strategy which describes our own commitment to certain measurable goals to be hit by 2015. This set of goals is known as the Millennium Development Goals.
These strategies and goals give the returnee a useful set of ends and means with which to work – almost a playbook that can be used to help make Jamaica into the kind of country that gives us pride in all respects.