Obama or Romney: Will it matter to Jamaicans?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

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On Tuesday, Americans go to the polls to elect a new president in either the incumbent Democratic Barack Obama, or Republican challenger, Governor Mitt Romney.

Many Jamaicans have been following the election campaign closely, knowing that the outcome will determine the course of US domestic and foreign policies, both of which will have an important effect on the entire world, given that America is the dominant superpower.

For reasons of ethnicity and heritage the majority of Jamaicans are likely to favour President Obama. The question, however, is who will be better for us, and that answer must be based on the likely impact of their policies on Jamaicans at home and Jamaicans living and working in the United States.

Mr Obama is likely to continue the mixture of economic policies which rely on the market and private enterprise, supported by measures which involve the role of the state in affirmative action programmes. This is based on the approach which requires government to support economic recovery by low interest rates, fiscal expenditure and the alleviation of poverty and unemployment.

While there are signs that the economic Titanic is slowly turning, growth has been, at best, anaemic, with joblessness still a major headache for the Obama Administration.

The enthusiasm and idealism which swept Mr Obama to the historic first Black presidency of the US have all but waned under the weight of the recession and the stubborn resistance of the economy to his policies.

Mr Romney is a fundamentalist free marketer who believes that, left unfettered, the market will, without government support, produce economic growth. The central plank of his economic policy is tax cuts for everybody including the very rich.

The possible weakening of affirmative action under Mr Romney could adversely affect health care, the availability of student loans, unemployment support and rescue packages for struggling sectors, and this could adversely affect Jamaicans in the working class there.

In foreign policy, there is little difference between Mr Obama and Mr Romney since both will be hostage to the prevailing focus in the State Department and the Pentagon on the Middle East; in particular Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as Asia, notably China and North Korea.

The economic crisis in Europe will be secondary to terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. China will dominate US foreign policy as they compete for markets, raw material and investment outlets. The poverty of Africa and the economic growth of Latin America and emerging market economies of Asia do not get them on the proverbial "radar screen".

Third Border or not, the Caribbean countries, other than Cuba, are insignificant in economic, strategic, security and political terms and so are not likely to get on the foreign policy agenda. This is not going to change in the foreseeable future.

The conventional thinking is that Jamaicans in the US are better off under a Democratic administration, and, by extension, Jamaicans at home who benefit from their remittances and investment.

However, without a thriving economy, Jamaicans in the US can do very little for their compatriots at home. American investors are hardly likely to be looking to a weak economy such as Jamaica's, and tourists will think twice about taking vacations.

So for many Jamaicans here, while their hearts may be with Mr Obama, their pockets are thinking Mr Romney.




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