Brand Jamaica is like a leaky bucket


Brand Jamaica is like a leaky bucket


Wednesday, December 04, 2019

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness is committing to monetise Brand Jamaica. Said he: “We always hear talk about Brand Jamaica but we do not monetise it. And so we are going to put some money behind it to truly own Brand Jamaica and ensure that when you hear about Brand Jamaica there are certain things that come to mind.”

Prime Minister, the Jamaican economy and Brand Jamaica are like a leaky bucket. Before you put taxpayers' money into Brand Jamaica, please recall this song which you no doubt sang as a child. The song is by our cherished Harry Belafonte of Jamaican ancestry. It is a conversation between two fictional characters, Henry and Liza, about a leaky bucket. Let me remind readers of the words:

“There is a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, there is a hole in the bucket. Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, then mend it, dear Henry. With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, dear Liza, with what shall I mend it? With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, mend it with straw. But the straw is too long, dear Liza, dear Liza, the straw is too long. Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, you have to cut it. With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, with what shall I cut it? With a knife, dear Henry, cut it with a knife. But the knife is too dull, dear Liza, the knife is too dull. Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, then sharpen it. With what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, dear Liza, with what shall I sharpen it? With a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, sharpen it with a stone. But the stone is too dry, dear Liza, dear Liza, the stone is too dry. Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, wet it. With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, dear Liza, with what shall I wet it? With water, dear Henry, dear Henry, wet it with water. With what shall I fetch the water, dear Liza, dear Liza, with what shall I fetch the water? With a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, fetch the water with a bucket. But there is a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, there is a hole in the bucket.”

The words of that song, although childish, describe the chronic situation of the Jamaican economy and everything associated with it such as Brand Jamaica. The thing that is needed to fix it also needs fixing itself. So we end up right where we started; a static situation with the key indicators pointing to stability, but no growth. That's a simplistic explanation of a complex situation, but it is not far from being right.

To analyse the economic dilemma in which countries like Jamaica find themselves economists came up with an economic analysis tool called the leaky bucket to monitor the main flows of money coming into and out of the economy.

Take the Jamaican economy for instance. Money from exports, tourism earnings, and remittances among other revenues pour into the bucket. But out through the holes in the bottom of the bucket – low productivity, crime and violence, corruption, lack of inclusiveness, low value-added industries, and low investment in human and social capital — leakage is occurring at a faster rate than the inflows.

The same is true for Brand Jamaica. Through the top of the bucket flows goodwill from positive image created by our music, our culture, our athletes, and our reputation for being fast learners. But in the bottom of the leaky bucket are some big holes through which much of the goodwill from the positive inflows is leaking; crime, violence, corruption, bureaucracy, low ranking in ease of doing business, not enough products that the world needs. So we are left with a deficit; big image and reputation (brand identity), but no ability (brand equity) to monetise it.

Let's use sports, something which everyone agrees builds Brand Jamaica globally, to explain in a practical way the leaky bucket phenomenon. The sad truth is that Jamaica is not an active player in the US$3-trillion integrated global sports industry. Our athletes perform their most amazing feats in stadia located outside Jamaica. They wear apparel and gear produced by overseas manufacturers and become rich on sponsorships paid by foreign brands. We are not at the table when multimillion-dollar deals for television rights are made. The same is true for music, the other activity that helps build Brand Jamaica.

The mathematics to reveal what is happening is simple. Jamaica's annual gross domestic product (GDP), that is the value of all goods and services, is about US$16 billion. By my estimate, Brand Jamaica is valued at about US$40 billion per annum. Using the leaky bucket model, what accounts for the deficit of US$24 billion that the country could be earning and which would give us a per capita GDP close to oil-producing Trinidad and Tobago? How do we propose to fix the problem?

There are really only three ways for Jamaica to break free of the leaky bucket conundrum. We can increase inflows, reduce outflows, or do both. Until then, we will only talk about monetising Brand Jamaica, and talk is cheap.

The press release from which I quoted the prime minister above also reported that the Cabinet received a presentation on Brand Jamaica. I do not know of a local consultant specialising in brand evaluation, but we have Gordon “Butch” Stewart. His Sandals Resorts International has been rated by Interbrand, a global brand consultancy, among the top brands in the former countries of the British Commonwealth. He should know a thing or two to share on how to monetise Brand Jamaica.

Global brands like Amazon, Coca-Cola, Toyota, BMW, and Intel spend billions trying to get it right — and for good reason. It is estimated that for a company the size of General Electric (GE) the brand value could be more than twice the capitalisation.

Prime Minister, I think you, Nigel Clarke, and Michael Lee-Chin could sing that Harry Belafonte song together. Oh, don't leave out whoever the Opposition's shadow minister of finance happens to be. The harmony might be off, but it should at least be interesting.

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