#COVID19Chronicles-266: December 30, 2020-Economic conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) published its ‘Regional economic outlook’. yesterday, with an assessment of economic conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean: things have been hard, especially for tourism-dependent countries, like Jamaica:

The scale of the harsh impact is well summarised with this comment:

‘COVID-19 has hit Latin America and the Caribbean harder than other parts of the world, both in human and economic terms. The relatively large human toll is evident: with only 8.2 percent of the world population, the region had 28 percent of cases and 34 percent of deaths, by end-September.’

That’s because ‘comparatively more people work in activities that require close physical proximity, and less people have jobs in which teleworking is feasible…in addition to a high degree of informality and poverty, and combined with lower trade and financial turbulence’.

The IMF highlights why the Caribbean suffered more:

‘Dependent on tourism for anywhere between 20 to 90 percent of GDP and employment, Caribbean countries were the hardest hit. Despite being relatively successful at containing the virus spread, the sudden stop in tourist arrivals and local lockdowns was equivalent to a cardiac arrest to their economies.’

Coming out of the pandemic will be an economic challenge:

‘The recovery is expected to be protracted. Our forecast is for growth of 3.6 percent in 2021. Most countries will not go back to pre-pandemic GDP until 2023, and real income per capita until 2025, later than any other region.’

But the policy outlook is clear:

‘Policies should remain focused on containing the pandemic and cementing the recovery. Premature withdrawal of fiscal support should be avoided. However, further support should be accompanied by explicit, legislated and clearly communicated commitments to consolidate and rebuild fiscal defenses over the medium term.’

#COVID19Chronices-263: December 27, 2020: The COVID-19 grinch still has business to do at Christmas

Germany and Hungary didn’t wait for the EU-wide coordinated rollout of vaccines and got started yesterday:

But, as those signs of progress come into view, the new strain of COVID-19, first identified in the UK, is now appearing in more places, and suggesting that it might have been around for a while elsewhere, for example, in Canada:

So, hopes that the COVID grinch was going away for Christmas get replaced by anxieties over whether the current vaccine will deal with the new strain.

But, let’s live with the positives of hope from the vaccine.

In the Caribbean, it looks like Cuba will lead other countries as its vaccine development is well-advanced, with phase 2 of clinical trials underway.

It’s planning to have a large proportion of its population vaccinated by the first quarter of 2021, ahead of Jamaica and other English-speaking countries. Its vaccine, however, will not be available to Jamaica:

It’s hard to see everything as merry and bright, but let’s keep trying. 😦

#COVID19Chronicles-258: December 22, 2020-New strains on #COVID19Life

Outside of Europe, countries are still pondering how to react to the new strain of COVID identified in the UK (and Italy). The WHO Europe is to meet to discuss responses:

The UK’s situation is chaotic as the complications for movement posed by the new COVID strain mix with emerging confusion and complications as it moves toward its Brexit deadlines, with no deal yet in place.

Jamaica’s decision to ban flights from the UK turned out to be tighter as the two flight due in today were both cancelled. The 302 passengers who arrived yesterday are in state quarantine facilities for 48 hours:

Indications that the current vaccines would also deal with the new strain have been declared by BioNTech and Pfizer:

Other English-speaking Caribbean countries have, so far, not followed Jamaica’s and Grenada’s lead.

Several major countries, including the USA, are playing wait and see.

Though, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) noted that the new strain might well have already been circulating, undetected, in the USA:

#COVID19Chronicles-256: December 20, 2020–That went south fast: UK travel to and from EU being stopped

It’s ironic that in the week when COVID vaccines were being rolled out in several countries, including the UK, USA and Russia and a second (Moderna) vaccine was approved in the USA for emergency use, the COVID pandemic in the UK appears to be spiralling out of control.

A new strain of the COVID virus apparently is ravaging the south-east of England and spreading significantly faster than was the case before.

The seriousness of that was that London, the East, and the South-East were moved in a tighter ‘tier 4’, restricting most movement.

Early reports were that people were trying to flee the area ahead of the lockdown.

Other EU countries started to ban flights and other travel from the UK.

Scotland banned cross-border movement.

Police presence has been beefed up to help enforce that measure.

Now, EU travel from the UK have been banned.

Freight is already affected at the border with France.

Things were going pear-shaped, already, as the scornful attitude of sneering at thoughts of “cancelling Christmas“ saw PM Johnston accept that fact for a large segment of England:

It’s too early to say how drastic an impact the flight cancellations will have on UK travel; non-EU countries are beginning to ban travel from the UK. It could be a tolling bell for some Caribbean tourism, which is just starting its winter season from mid-December. It’s hard to see countries in the region being indifferent to arrivals from the UK, in light of this latest development.

#COVID19Chronicles-161: September 20, 2020-Some international and regional context

No definitive measure exists to say whether a country is doing well with the handling of COVID-19. That’s not to say you cannot assess the impact of measures used by countries.

Dramatic differences in how countries have been curbing transmission rates within their borders—and which actions have been most effective across the board.

Typically, the best weapon in the containment of diseases arsenal is a vaccine, which stops a virus before it can multiply inside a person. While the world waits for this preventative medicine, which may not be ready until next year, countries are focusing on other measures, such as testing, isolating sick people, and shutting down borders. But what scientists have learned since January is that COVID-19 often beat these defenses before they could even be established.

One thing many countries learn is that ‘containment fatigue’ is real, and restrictions will be fought hard my many, maybe even most, in some areas.

No measure can set one country against another to say categorically it has done better than others. Starting conditions were not the same. Underlying conditions are not the same. Social structures and cultures are different. Ethnic differences are not trivial. Health profiles (national, regional) are not the same. Resource availability differs, especially but not confined to what medical facilities exist (hospitals, equipment, staffing etc) and under what conditions (costs, physical location and quantities). I’ve tried to follow what’s going on in lots of countries since I got back from the UK to Jamaica in March. Responses in Europe were different across the continent. Response in the USA were different from those in Europe and also different across the (strange federal structure) states. I have tried to note responses in Latin America and Africa, but again, these are all over the place. A global pandemic with no common approaches across countries, seems to bode ill for eventual success, but let me try to remain optimistic. I am not going to hail or condemn any country. I noted Sweden and Israel early on because they took clear policy stances; Sweden decided to keep things as close to normal as possible (it had some lockdown, initially. The BBC reported: ‘Sweden has largely relied on voluntary social distancing guidelines since the start of the pandemic, including working from home where possible and avoiding public transport. 
There’s also been a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, restrictions on visiting care homes, and a shift to table-only service in bars and restaurants. The government has repeatedly described the pandemic as “a marathon not a sprint”, arguing that its measures are designed to last in the long term.’

Israel decided to lockdown much (eg travel restrictions, social distancing, national emergency) early on–all in the context of no official government, pending elections.

Sweden was much criticized in the first three months, largely because its death rate was considerably higher than most. Three months further on, and the Swedish approach is showing that the impact of the pandemic has levelled off considerably (almost disappeared) and deaths are lower than in many countries. A significant part of the death story is that Sweden got wrong the policy for people in care homes, who made up the bulk of deaths. Its economy is now showing a much shallower downturn than many of its comparators.

Israel’s early success is just about to be put back as it has decided to reimpose a near total lockdown ahead of the major religious celebration, including Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, on 27 September. That new lockdown has created major political upheaval.

As the BBC reported: ‘Many nations are experiencing second surges of the virus. However most governments are now imposing smaller local lockdowns in affected areas, rather than blanket national ones.’

So, the global pandemic is exhibiting a global pattern, as second waves appear after countries have tried to go back to ‘normal’. This second wave is at least of the same intensity and magnitude (cases and deaths) as the first. It’s too early to say if this will be the chronic trend, going forward, ie if multiple waves of varying intensity will occur and with what intervals. So, somewhat like other coronaviruses, eg flu, we may see something that is quasi-seasonal, ie recurrent and inevitable.

As Jamaica’s minister of health and wellness releases data daily on tests, cases and deaths, people see Jamaica’s progress in great national and local detail, but they see little else. I do not recall a comparison with more than one or two countries in the region. Consequently, it’s easy to get what’s happening in Jamaica out of context, even in the simple regional geographical sense, especially now community transmission is occurring. But, in light of what is going on elsewhere in the world, it’s important to not just look at our country as if that tells us very much. People who should have an eye on the region can be cited as saying “Jamaica’s numbers are bad!” Bad, my foot!

Relative to most countries in the Caribbean, Jamaica’s results are good, especially when seen on a per 100,000 people basis, as the chart shows, and notably, when one considers bigger territories.

So, before you feel tempted to join the chorus of ‘the sky is falling on Jamaica’, cast your eyes around and ask if the Dominican Republic or Trinidad or The Bahamas look to be in a more ‘perilous’ state. Always, being mindful (if possible) of what each country has done or is trying to do.

#COVID19Chronicles-135: August 27, 2020-Happy birthday, curfew…‘60 is the new 40’

My wife celebrated her 60th birthday yesterday. Yea, Therese!

It had long been her intention to ‘make it another big bash’, after her 50th party rave in Nassau. That had been blessed by rain that never dampened people’s spirits, while the real stuff flowed with wine and champagne, and all graced with food that Caribbean people love, with its strong Bahamian twist. Friends had gathered from far and wide, and airline business got a boost.

Without going into details of the plans for 2020, several venues came up in Europe, Africa and the Bahamian Family Islands. Then, the spoiler of all spoilers arrived on a plane from ‘Corona’.

“Hello, anybody locked down at home?”

So, scaling down began as the problems of international travel increased, till the plan was left as just a mainly family event in Nassau.

Badoom! Corona said “Not this time, baby!”

The Bahamas went into all-island weekend lockdown again in late-July. Using that now-common COVID phrase, out of an abundance of caution, She cancelled flights her and our daughter—I’d already decided not to travel, as I am in a ‘more vulnerable’ category, and thoughts went on how to ‘party’ in a COVID19Life way. I threw out the idea that the refreshments could be supplied and people celebrate remotely.

“Hi, I’m Zoom. Going my way?”

I wasn’t on the planning committees, but the many skilled organizational hands that my wife has as siblings were, I’m sure, hammering away at ideas.

So, as the day approached, I say goodie bags arrive at the house with ‘Hip hip, hooray’, then I saw boxes of what looked like Champagne delivered. Hmmm. I went off to play golf at the weekend, and got a message that my playing partner needed to stop by on our way back, as there was ‘something for him’. I’d heard plans to bake a poppy seed cake, so I primed him to get one of those. Well, I hope he wasn’t disappointed to get a bag with a bottle of bubbly, instead, and instructions to join the celebration.

So, on Monday, a ‘courier’ was despatched with filled bags and envelopes to deliver. I was not a recipient, so I guess the details were included along with the number of the offshore bank account for the birthday contributions. Whatever.

Tuesday morning came, and in a moment of weak romanticism, I decided to make coffee and take it up to wake up the birthday girl, along with a cupcake delivered along with others in a box the night before. I met her at the top of the stairs as she got up early…planning to play tennis. Quick hug and off she went to sit down and enjoy her birthday ‘breakfast’. She, then, headed off to tennis about 5.50am.

I just trundled along till our daughter surfaced early, at about 7, asking “Where’s, Mummy?” I told her and she was glad that time was on her side to whip up a surprise breakfast.

There we were in the kitchen as she and our housekeeper rustled up some fruit and a cooked offering. Her mother came back at about 7.15, and, seeing the plans, headed for a shower.

“Earthquake! Did you feel it?” I yelled, as my swivel counter stool shook and I gripped the counter. Two sets of blank stares met mine. It was about 7.30. They had not felt a thing, while I had shaken for about 3-5 seconds. ODPEM later confirmed that we’d had a 4.8 earthquake, centered in Mile Gully, Manchester.

While ‘Mutt and Jeff’ looked blank, the birthday girl had felt it while in her birthday suit under the hot water: “Did you feel the Earth move?” She yelled from on high. “I wont say; our daughter is listening,” I replied 🙂

She came down and enjoyed her breakfast, then was off, for a hair appointment and ‘meetings’. She came back around 9.30, phone in hand and headphones in…”I’m on a Zoom call…” trailed off upstairs.

The rest of the day, she was busy, from what I heard, as Spanish and English voices swirled around.

Fast forward, we had an early dinner, together, and waited for the appointed hour, 6.30pm.

Cutting to the chase, her brother had set up a Zoom birthday party and the guest list was long; it reached over 50 by the time the call was ending at about 9pm.

As we say, the list was full of the ‘usual suspects’, which included friends from our many homes in different countries, but mainly Barbados and the USA, with a good crop of Jamaicans on the island, plus a Jamaican friend who shared the birthday with my wife, but had decided to head back to England last week to sort out some business. For him, the party started just after 1am and he stayed the full course, to after 3am, UK time.

As is often the case with these calls, a few glitches needed sorting out to get everyone access, but they were minor.

We were scrolling furiously on an iPad to see the many guests, while her brother-MC had set his feed up on his TV in Nassau and could see all at once. We need to figure that out.

Lots of happy faces and voices and well-wishing came, and a few late arrivals soon caught up.

It’s harder to manage people in these online sessions, especially if the ‘rules of engagement’ aren’t set out at the start. But, we are mostly polite and ‘raised hands’ to speak and there wasn’t too much cross-talk. The toasts were nice, and a lot of acknowledgement of my lady as a modern ‘rock star’ in her field and as a representative of her country and the region. Behind every great woman, there’s a man glued to football on the TV: I play my part 🙂

She’s fresh off a several-page glam spread in the Jamaica Observer:

The pandemic has forced many changes to ordinary life, and this is yet another example. 50-odd people ‘go’ to a ‘party’ on their computer or mobile device. The drink and fete and dont have to worry about driving home after, or getting stopped during curfew—ours restarted earlier last week from 7pm, instead of 11. We didn’t need to be like some ‘celebrities’ have done recently and have people risk their health and hug and mingle and not bother with any health protocols except as an initial nicety.

Much as I like lots of modern technology, especially for fast and wide communication, I’ve discovered I’m a bit of a Zoom-aphobe, not yet fully at ease with the clustered images. But, I stayed the course, last night. So proud of myself! 🙂

The birthday girl crashed about 10pm and is still in the Land of Nod. That’s how to do it!

Whether ‘60 is the new 40’ has any meaning, we shall see. I hope she doesn’t have to work another 25 years to prove the point, though 🙂

#COVID19Chronicles-104: July 27, 2020-WI Global ‘In the Living Room’ discussion: Reboot, Rethink and Refocus

I was a guest yesterday in a wide-ranging discussion live streamed on the WI Global Facebook platform. We covered a lot of ground in over two hours on how to reboot the English-speaking Caribbean island economies: regional integration, investment thinking and oppportunities, dependence on tourism, and education—all within the framework of what the future focus should be coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Have a listen, in full or in part, and feel free to get back to me with any reactions.

https://www.facebook.com/WIGlobalmedia/

Sharing some of nature’s beauty: week 1, 2020

I find much pleasure in enjoying natural things and being outdoors. Many know that they can often find me on a golf course for that reason, rather than actually playing golf. It’s why I enjoy gardening: my father said “Always stay close to the land”. Many of my pictures are of flowers, plants, landscapes, animals or other things I encounter by chance when out and about. Someone suggested on Twitter that when we encounter nice natural things it’d be good to share them. What a great idea. So, for this first week of a new year, I’m going to try to do that and continue on a weekly basis. It fits with an idea I had last year to move more towards visual storytelling rather than literal storytelling.

The selection below spans the two weeks I have spent during the Christmas season, which ends tomorrow, January 5. What I notice from these is how nature has been touched by humans; I’ll even say enhanced, not least in making the sights accessible. You’ll see, too, that some of the natural shots have no human interference (eg sunrises, or wind effects), and some show nature largely left to itself (banana ground). The golf course video is intriguing because of how nature has adapted to man’s influence, with the sea birds taking advantage of new shelter and feeding opportunities. That’s a nice spread of what is often on display to all of us. I’m not sure, at this early stage, if I will start to shape my observations to focus on certain elements, but let’s see. Enjoy!

Arc of the covenant: Thoughts on a migratory path

Why did my parents choose the paths they did? After my mother decided to go to England to further her nursing career, why did my parents do what they did? My father could have stayed in Jamaica with me and kept on a nursing career path already underway. He could have taken me to my mother in England and left me with her (she had potentially good family support there). Long-distance relationships were, and still are, not uncommon amongst migrants, so too are families where children get left behind while parents seek work abroad. Splitting the household could have minimized risks and removed many uncertainties. I could have grown up as a ‘barrel child’. Their son could have moved along an educational path that, while not certain, was better known and understood. Instead, he was pitched into a new educational set-up, which he navigated better than many of his migrant peers and ended up well-positioned, as his parents had hoped. My parents opted to move into a world that often treated migrants as second-class citizens, especially in key areas like jobs and housing. What a huge risk!

At what point did any of these options get discussed or discarded? Of course, I can’t now pose those questions of my parents.

That the choices they made did not leave them on the floor of migrants’ fortunes over a period of 25 years is fascinating. They succeeded far more than they failed. For instance, they moved from renting small basement flats in London’s inner city to buying houses in the suburbs. That’s a good story to tell.

No way could they have foretold events that would leave them living comfortably as retirees in Jamaica, debt-free, pensions coming predictably from the UK, largely protected from exchange rate losses, not uncertainly from Jamaica in depreciated dollars.

Hindsight is 20-20, so I don’t know how much second guessing my parents did through their lives, but I know they were happy with the outcomes.

It’s not the economy, stupid! It’s the people?

Once in my working life at the Bank of England I had responsibility for a team that looked at economic development in English-speaking Caribbean countries. I got into a professional bind by arguing, against the official policy line that devaluation was to be supported as a way of easing Jamaica out of its economic woes. I argued, based on my understanding of how Jamaica had worked for decades, that while one side of the devaluation equation worked, the economy was titled in a way that meant the gains would go out on the other side: we imported more than we exported and the balance of that meant higher net costs but without the needed gains that could come from a more competitive exchange rate; we also had lots of tied contracts in bauxite that were not sensitive to exchange rate changes. My other reasons were based on ‘cultural senses’ that Jamaicans were not going to change habits fast enough to make exchange rate shifts work quickly; that was part of the truth but also reflected that fact that jinnalship meant Jamaicans were as likely to find ways around the change, eg by making use of remittances more (which, being in foreign exchange, meant full protection). I did not win the internal debate at the Bank, and my career did not tailspin. Fast forward.

Jamaica has done what many economists would see as the ‘right thing’ in recent years in dealing with the long-standing issue of a bloated fiscal deficit and its debt burden. Now, that improvement can be an important necessary condition, but is not sufficient, to use economics jargon. It’s also allowed the exchange rate to be ‘flexible’, or depreciate in visible terms. 

What economic policies are supposed to do is to change the way that ‘economic agents’ operate, based on certain assumptions about behaviour. What has so often been the problem with Jamaica (and many other countries) is understanding how people react and if they react in unexpected ways, how to taper policies so that the desired effects are still achieved. 

One thing certain about curbing fiscal excesses is that less money will slosh around between political powers and private people: that’s simple maths. That squeeze may have some negative economic effect, but it may be less if the previous beneficiaries find other ways to operate and make money. 

Similarly, with the exchange rate depreciation, significant numbers of people and businessmen are not totally exposed and can draw on foreign exchange buffers or substitute domestic items for imports enough to get by. 

The problem with all of this is that some of the things needed to change economic behaviour are not in the hands of economic policy makers. 

A simple example. Interest rates are meant to offer incentives to save (and by extension, to spend). Now, if people are fearful of banks (for whatever reasons) changing interest rates in the banking system does not affect behaviour much because people stay away from the system where interest rates matter. So, one of the first steps in this instance is to get over people’s fears and dislike of banks and other financial institutions. That is a matter of education and life experiences; the life experiences may have deeper roots than education can uproot, so it’s a hard battle to just ‘teach’ people about the benefits of banks. No sooner have the lessons been learned than a ‘disaster’ occurs when many people (and friends) lose money deposited in banks. The old suspicions resurface and new fears arise. So, the battle is nearly or totally lost. However, economic policy makers have few tools, of which interest rates are one. Stuck.

When I look closely at Jamaica, I’m as perplexed as I ever was why somethings don’t change or change at the pace at which a snail sprints. I have to wonder if it’s something engrained, like ‘in the water’ or ‘in our food’, which are sort of intangibles.  So, in that vein, is it ‘in the people’? 

All the macroeconomics are undone easily by a microeconomic set-up that does not correspond well to many standard ways of thinking about economics. Part of me sees this as a curse, but it has also been a boon.

The curse is that all the pulling of the macroeconomic levers don’t give the expected results. We know this, for sure, in Jamaica! The good part is that Jamaicans have found ways to overcome economic ‘problems’ and found many different ways to ‘survive’. Now, a key part of that survival is about not staying within all the legal lines that exist. That is one of the binds that stop me clapping every time I think about how Jamaica has not imploded. If the world were full of ‘wild West’ countries and anarchy was the mark of success, then Jamaica would be hailed, I’m sure. 

What is more puzzling to me over recent times, as I’ve had more chance to see life lived in Jamaica, is how many of the microeconomic quirks are not restricted to any social class. We’ve carved out a way of life that makes the most wealthy and best educated less different from those at the other end of the scale than wide wealth and education differences usually mean.

Monetary gains and losses do drive how Jamaican people act but in some odd ways:

  • Businesses do not strive to be the best as a way of ensuring their financial success; many are content to just do what they do; customers like it or lump it. This is not abnormal in many economies, but usually means the demise of enterprises. That is not the case in Jamaica, which means that businesses must be surviving WITHOUT business.
  • Time is (near) meaningless: if time is money in most people’s minds, it doesn’t have that connotation for many Jamaicans. (It’s one way of rationalizing why Jamaicans don’t see timeliness as important, because they have somehow given time zero value. As a fellow blogger pointed out to me today, saying ‘7.05’ means ‘sometime before 8’ to a Jamaican 🙂 ) But, economically, if money doesn’t matter (in the normal flow of events) then value must have ways of being preserved that are not apparent.
  • Attention spans are short, but ‘memories’ are long. Many Jamaicans will have ‘ready reactions’ to any phenomenon, but barely want to analyse what is really going on. (This is reflected in the way that ‘news’ and ‘events’ are reported–much of the ‘What’ and little of the ‘Why’.)Many Jamaicans live with the illusion of things being better in the past–despite lots of evidence to the contrary or no means of really comparing. What’s funny about that is that people will talk about the ‘good old days’ but do nothing (much) to recreate those times. I’ve yet to see a Jamaican ready to give up the motor vehicle, access to running water and (near) constant electricity, or the telephones, as part of the step back in time that is needed 🙂
  • Distortion is the norm. At its worst, this is all about corruption. Transparency International defines this as: ‘Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs.’ The Merriam-Webster Dictionary puts it more simply: ‘dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers): the act of corrupting someone or something.’ My take is that ‘powerful’ has to be scaled down to include anyone who has influence over others, which means that many more are actually in the position to be corrupt and do corrupt things. The fact that the deeds are common or long-standing doesn’t change their nature. This is something that the integrity of Jamaicans often does not understand or accept. 

The first three bullets point to the impact of ‘hidden economic activity’ that may be a principal or not trivial part of many people’s lives. I hope the economic logic of that is clear. The last bullet is different, as it points squarely to what ‘government’ does, more than other parts of the economy. It bothers me more than other things, because we have a country where many monetary flows are opaque, at the level of government, where transparency and accountability are supposedly built-in to protect ‘the people’. Without dredging through Archives we find too many stories such as reported last week about hay: Millions Down The Drain In Hay Project. The extracts say enough: 

  • ‘…financial mismanagement and lax oversight uncovered…
  • ‘In reference to the proposed revenue that was forecast, the project revenue is at a deficit of -$17,492,750,’ the auditors wrote…’At Bodles, they reported that no records were being maintained for the production of hay between April 2014 and December 2015. For the first six months of 2016, the audit found that 1,329 bales of hay were produced at both facilities, compared to a projected 54,000 bales.’

The average Jamaican lives with the sense that government is full of corruption and reacts with feigned or little surprise at stories such as these. The real surprise is really that such ‘malfeasance’ goes on undetected in many realms and for extended periods. But, as I’ve said before, corruption is so entrenched that its total beneficiaries are far more numerous than those who are not. If you don’t believe in ‘trickle down’ economics, then you wont understand how the ‘feeding tree’ of Jamaica misappropriation of public funds works. Everyone gets to eat because of someone taking money that is not truly theirs to distribute. To break that system is to break the society. 

In that sense, our pervasive corruption is worse, in my eyes, than the corruption often seen elsewhere, where a very limited pool of ‘elites’ benefit. In Jamaica, almost everyone’s life depends on it. 

Institutions like the IMF know that it’s not just the economic policy levers that need to be turned to fix the economy. However, the Fund cannot enforce changes in areas outside its mandate. Its structural policies must still stay within its ambit, so it tries to go to the limits but cannot go further. To get the whole of a country change economically requires a government to be committed to putting in place a wide swathe of policy changes that go in the same direction as the desired economic policy. In other words, it must have complentatry meaures to support the economic ones. Government must also fix itself by weaning itself away from some or all of its bad habits, such as evidenced by the ‘hay project’ fiasco. That is much harder than may appear in countries like Jamaica, where (as I have said, repeatedly) have built themselves on ‘rent-seeking’ behaviour. That has to stop and maybe unwound. Like taking out a thorn, it cannot be done without pain (real, imagined, or both). 

        Government ‘fixing’ itself is both direct and exemplary: how many countries can progress if government is seen to practice things it says it is against? Also, government must change first and fast.

        Jamaica is not alone is struggling to get its economic act together. Jamaica is also not alone in terms of countries that have struggled economically then made a major forward turn. However, it takes time, consensus, and coherence in policies. 

        Getting the macroeconomy right is only a step on this journey, rather than the journey, itself. I’m not sure Jamaicans understand that.