Columns

Ja built on Chinese sweat

BY DERVILLE LOWE

Wednesday, May 28, 2014    

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WITH the state of Jamaica's ailing economy there are some Jamaicans who strongly believe that the production of certain commodities in Jamaica such as electronics, microchips, simple machines, and other fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) is actually beyond our purview — with all good intention, I suppose.

Beyond our purview because we don't have the know-how, the technology, cheap energy, or cheap labour -— like China, they say. So, let's do away with this talk of production because we can't, we don't have the capacity and someone else is doing it cheaper. They say let's not bother to cultivate on a large scale the things we apparently need, or perhaps don't need, like rice and corn, because we don't have the land space and technology to do it. As a matter of fact, they propose, other countries do it better and are more efficiently so let's just do what we're good at — comparative advantage it's called. They say, let's just sell some ginger and coffee, get a little change, and borrow the rest. Why not?

It is amazing and almost repulsive that those same Jamaicans stand behind borrowing from all quarters and IMF handouts which enable us to buy those same products that we can, but choose not to produce; all while we point the finger at Bustamante and Manley for the state of the economy.

Designated an Upper-Middle Income country by the World Bank, we continue to import expensive consumer goods from countries which pay their workers far higher and produce exponentially more than we do in Jamaica. The US, UK, South Korea, and Japan have average GDP per capita at six, four, 3.7 and four times that of Jamaica, respectively.

The Jamaican Government, in identifying a gap in the budget for the fiscal year 2014/15, has decided that the only possible way to bridge that gap is to slap on more taxes. The Government is more ferocious; squeezing the life out of an already overburdened populace. It is very troubling that all the fiscal, budgetary and economic plans the Jamaican Government has is based on, and tailored to satisfy IMF requirements. We, the people, have no say in it and seem to have chosen the passive way out, choosing not to say anything because of our seemingly inherent dependence on borrowing. We're in a "beggy-beggy" comfort zone, fast asleep; waiting for the Chinese to make the next spoon, fork, knife, pot, cup, scissors, pencil, pen, lock, pin, button, brush, screw, hammer, and everything else we use on a daily basis. No trade, practice or industry can survive in Jamaica without Chinese sweat.

We need to be doing more research into the available natural resources and produce all that we can from them and import more raw materials and technology to make the things we need rather than buying container loads of finished consumer goods from foreign countries. Borrowing is no universal remedy for Jamaica as we are making it out to be, and it is no substitute for a good business environment, socio-economic development, and reforms that are needed to promote growth, investment, and protect and improve the lives of the poor. We have discarded the key of production and are attempting to pick the lock with borrowing. Unless we open our eyes and stop talking and boasting about the potential we have and act on it, Jamaica will get nowhere while the other countries we laud for progress like the three Asian Tigers (Japan, Korea & China) and other emerging economies in Asia and the Caribbean continue to record growth and make progress as we continue to record debt and retrogress. Are we uncomfortable with the state of affairs?

drvlllowe@yahoo.com

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