'Horse dead and crow fat'

Wednesday, August 17, 2011    

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THE oft misquoted Jamaican saying 'Horse dead and crow fat' means that one man's misfortune is another man's fortune. This truism holds good for the global economy as well as individual and national circumstances.

For example, Chinese exports of apparel are beneficial to China where it creates employment, but it displaces jobs in the United States and in Mexico which used to supply the US market.

Often when a country is experiencing economic distress, unemployment increases to the point that many seek relief by migrating to other countries. This is beneficial in two respects as it relieves the social and economic pressure in the country from which people are leaving, and it often supplies the receiving countries with labour and in many circumstances urgently needed skills.

Many of the so called "new world" countries benefited from the migration of unemployed labour. The unemployed Irish and English were integral to the development of the United States of America, Canada and Australia.

The Jamaican economy has failed to produce enough jobs over the last 150 years and therefore its main export has been labour. Gall's Newsletter, in early 1884, described the scene at the docks where workers were being recruited to work in building the Panama Canal as: "A stampede hardly possible to describe."

This haemorrhage of human capital continues today and is not larger in numbers only because the US and Canada will not allow entry to all who would emigrate.

This migration has been a desperate act of economic survival by the Jamaican people and that is why, despite the relatively small size and population of our island, there are Jamaicans in every part of the world today.

The economic austerity of the government in Great Britain requires that several thousand public sector workers will be laid off. This is most unfortunate for those losing their jobs, but they have skills and experience which allow them to find good jobs abroad. There are opportunities for Jamaica to recruit suitably qualified civil servants to strengthen various sections of the public sector. The police, the public health service and the Ministry of Finance come to mind immediately as areas where there are shortages of skills, eg. nurses; the teaching of certain subjects including English; conducting autopsies and where some experience could help, the police.

Skill and experience must be the critical determining criteria for selection. The priority in recruitment must be the persons of Jamaican origin or descendents of Jamaicans. Even if those recruited are British with no connection to Jamaica they have the advantage of language which is an impediment to many Indians and Cubans working in Jamaica.

In addition, many public sector systems and laws of Jamaica are modelled after their British counterparts. Other benefit could be the injection of civility and politeness into social contact and reinforcing those who are struggling to speak English.

All of this is an opportunity to reverse the "brain drain" and recapture our human capital. The ironies of this change in the direction of migration are numerous, eg. GOJ recruiting nurses in Britain, remittances from British people working in Jamaica to their families in Britain and Jamaicans complaining about their jobs being taken by migrants including returning Jamaicans.




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