I’m watching an interesting ‘battle’ for the hearts, minds, and souls of Jamaicans over economic policy issues. That’s maybe overstating what’s going on, but bear with me. Ian Boyne, sometime columnist of the Jamaica Gleaner, but also deputy CEO of Jamaica Information Service, is on the rampage. He is known, by his own statements, as a voracious reader, but also as a inveterate quoter of what he reads. So much so, that another sometime columnist, Gordon Robinson, refers to his (disparagingly?) as ‘Booklist’. He’s not a formally trained economist, and I would not hold that against him, because he is willing to learn any subject and read his way into its wisdom.
He’s in the throes of a simmering debate with the head of the economics department at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Dr. Damien King. Now, the land over which they are fighting may interest about eight Jamaicans on a very dull day, when nothing else is happening; ‘market over state, private over public’, to quote Mr. Boyne. It’s about what type of economic policy works well, or best. Mr. Boyne has gone on the attack against neo-liberal economists, of which he thinks Dr. King is king, or at least a prince.
The latest flinging of hot oil from the parapet of the Sunday newspapers came yesterday, with a piece entitled ‘What makes countries grow?‘
I suggest that those who can follow this little discussion, carefully. I have no dog in the fight in terms of personal like or dislike for either man.
I’m as much intrigued by who does or does not enjoin the battle. On the one hand–in true economist style–I wonder how an learned person, but not a trained economist, has claimed the upper ground in this discussion of economics in a country that has struggled all its independent life to do more than make promises about economic progress and fail consistently to deliver. On the other hand, I pose a question that I have raised many times before about how UWI academics see themselves raising the level of debate about topics, especially about the socio-economics of this island. Their relative quietness baffles me, though. Surely, there are no neutrals in the debate amongst the economics faculty. Now, I could understand a certain reluctance to take on the head of department, but some have at least said that they are not neo-liberals. That’s a least a start.
The best economics for Jamaica is really like a hydra, and I would be lying if I said that I do not relish the thought of being a slayer of dragons or other nasty monsters. But, is the debate, therefore, too about who is brave enough to take on the subject, publicly?