Book by John Maxwell
How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists
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A Scourge for the Disinherited
The IMF is in town and despondency and
despair are loosed abroad in the land.
Oh! How I wish Mr. Albertelli were around to
see the result of the IMF intervention he led to Jamaica 25
years ago, and to compare the condition of Jamaica with that of
his own country, Argentina. Then, Argentina was almost a first
world country, capable of fighting wars with Britain. Jamaica
was a promising middle income country, shaken by the oil crisis
and the world recession, but still nowhere near a failed state.
Today, Argentina and Jamaica are both
teetering on the edge, both are now heavily indebted poor
countries, not poor enough to qualify for international welfare,
but not far away.
Both are in their present situation largely
because of the disastrous policies of the IMF which Mr
Albertelli so ruthlessly represented 33 years ago.
That was when we had to abandon the idea of
cleaning up Kingston Harbour and cut back our dreams of free
education for all up to and including University.
Don’t Cry for Us, IMF
We are rightfully dismissive of drug pushers,
bloodsuckers who profit from human weakness, selling their
addict customers crack cocaine and heroin, to stoke a habit
which they first fostered. Like the IMF, pushers are never
satisfied. They always want their customers to consume more of
their product, until it kills them. The IMF pushes money –
loans at usurious interest rates to desperate, poor countries.
In 1978 we thought that, as members of
the IMF, going through a temporary balance of payments
problem caused by international recession and oil price hikes,
we were entitled, as the IMF charter said, to borrow enough to
help us get out of our difficulties. The IMF had other ideas.
Their ‘rescue’ operation carried political and economic
conditionalities, designed from the start, to destroy the
apparatus of democratic government and public participation,
designed to destroy so-called ‘populist politics’ – in
which political leaders respond to the needs and wishes of their
About that same time, at a Third World summit
in Havana, Fidel Castro advised the world and the IMF that
the Third World Debt was unpayable, and that continuing the
policies then fashionable would only push poor countries further
towards the brink of disaster. Since then the debt has only
become bigger, more oppressive and more unpayable.
It appears that Castro was right and the IMF
was wrong. In fact it is clear that Castro was right, and that
his dirt poor, isolated country, depending almost entirely on
its own resources (with some help from the USSR) has produced a
society at peace with itself and with educational and health
services which are better than some advanced countries such as
Britain and the United States. Even the World Bank sent a
mission to Cuba to find out how they managed it. But whatever
they learned has obviously not been passed on to the IMF
We, on the other hand, have been retreating
towards 1838 and a state of destitution and misery which is not
far short of slavery.
As I said, some years ago, the Jamaican
government has presided over the biggest transfer of wealth from
the poor to the rich since the abolition of slavery. At that
time, to twist the knife in the wound, it was the slave-owners
who were compensated rather than those who had laboured for 300
years to make Jamaica one of the pearls of the British Empire.
We are back to Square One.
Where is Square One?
At this moment every Jamaican owes nearly
one and a half times the per capita national income. We are
literally worth more as ‘human capital’ than as human
The IMF/World Bank programmes which
accomplished this transformation are really quite simple. They
are supposedly designed to get inefficient governments out of
the way of development, empowering the private sector to
'barrel' in, driving up productivity, creating employment
and making everybody better off. A rising tide lifts all
boats – except in Latin America and the Caribbean as the World
Bank has discovered. (The details are in the publication
“Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean," now
downloadable from the World Bank)
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the
canoes are being swamped in the wash of the cruise ships and the
The tax cuts have put major burdens on the
poor. Since taxes are a form of 'ground rent' for your
existence and your opportunity to make good, it is clear that
those who have done best should pay more. The flat income tax,
combined with the consumption tax have fallen heaviest on those
whose discretionary income is either nonexistent or
minuscule. The wealthy, fully liberalised and liberated,
can now collect huge rents for their land and their money,
forcing the government to spend more on debt repayment to them
and less on education and health services for the disinherited.
The top five percent of Jamaicans are now
owed, by the rest of us, almost as much as the entire
country produces in a year. To answer how that happened is to
understand how inequitable, oppressive and wicked the IMF
policies really are.
Albertelli and his successors made sure
to demand that we had to drop subsidies to the poorest, stop
subsidising cheaper food and provide instead food
stamps which are rapidly converted into non-food items like
lottery tickets. Interest rates had to go up – to lend farmers
money at 15% in 1994 was a Quixotic nonsense, we were told.
Result: farming collapsed and thousands more went on the streets
to sell hairpins and shoe polish in the so-called informal
sector. Thousands more were separated from their civil service
and municipal jobs in the name of efficiency and public sector
reform to become informal commercial importers (higglers) and
taxi-drivers. And for all of these things we borrowed from the
IMF. Whatever farming activity was not ruined by expensive
money was devastated by cheap imports of European milk and
liberalised food rejects from the US.
Meanwhile we had to open manufacturing to the
'bracing winds of competition' –mostly from sweated and slave
labour in countries where unions do not exist, including areas
of the United States. Our garment and footwear industries
were blown away.
Cement was on the cards to be next, but the
government has seen the danger of having such an enormous pile
of expensive machinery rusting way at the entrance to Kingston.
It would worry investors.
As the economy has disintegrated and declined
(two disparate processes) the social fabric of the country has
dissolved. Teachers and others like them, educated here at great
expense, are forced to flee to greener pastures where the
pittance – insufficient to keep an American alive –
will do very well, thank you, for the Jamaican refugees. Their
children are baby-sat by television or the neighbourhood dons.
There’s a (Bob) Jones in your Future
Meanwhile, globalisation promises us bigger
and better disasters. Under the General Agreement on Trade in
Services, – GATS – Jamaica is soon to lose its entire
educational system. The University of the West Indies and the
University of Technology will soon enough be available for
takeover either by American educational institutions, or more
likely, to become prisons to be managed privately by Wackenhut
and suchlike. In those prisons, the lucky inhabitants will no
doubt rejoice in a (US) dollar or so a day to staff call centres
and make airline reservations as their cohorts already do
in the United States.
The reason for this debacle is simple. Under
GATS, the government will be forced – if it
subsidises any Jamaican institution – to subsidise any
educational institution operating in Jamaica, resident or
non-resident. Fair’s fair, after all; why should Jamaica ride
roughshod over the like of Bob Jones University and Oral
Robert’s University who only want to teach us such necessary
delights as Creationism and why black and whites should
Under the rules of GATS, all signatories are
compelled to treat every enterprise operating within their
boundaries the same, whether it is a virtual university
employing sweated academic labour, or is a real American
institution drawing students from Jamaica. If we subsidise
Jamaican students at UTECH or Mico, we shall have to
subsidise Jamaican students at Oral Roberts U or Bob
Jones. And, when we subsidise those students, do we really
expect them to come back here?
We are being asked not too subtly, to mount a
foreign aid and welfare programme for the United States as we
have mounted one here for the rich of Jamaica.
The destruction of the educational system
which is now in progress follows on the undeniable fact that the
government cannot finance education AND the national debt.
That fact means that any elements of the Jamaican culture which
we still value will have to be taught clandestinely in
huts and tattoos around the countryside by such dedicated
dinosaurs who have not bought into the Walmart culture.
And such behaviour, may, like Obeah, soon be proscribed.
As we have seen from Enron and Tyco, it is a
far, far better thing we shall do to privatise education and
water when we know that Jamaicans cannot run anything (except
the US State Department) and are hopeless about transparency and
accountability. Capitalism – which has demonstrated its
unfortunate propensity to slide into large-scale criminality,
should be given the chance to prove that it is
better for us than the petty theft of our peers. If we are going
to have a chance to rule the world, surely we need to learn from
der echte Lords of the Earth – Citibank,
Barclays, Credit Suisse and so forth. And it's about time
we sell the Jamaica Unit Trust to an American mutual fund. They
know the business backwards (and sideways).
Our women will have the exquisitely difficult
choice of working either in the salubrious free zones or
alternatively, in the private beaches and nightclubs of the
And then, of course, the whole problem will
solve itself, as HIV/AIDS will spread unchecked, because
distributing condoms is a crime against God and teaching
children about sex is a sin worse than witchcraft. If the family
goes, can the community be far behind?
Perhaps, though, we could be spared, if there
were a Portia – as in the Merchant of Venice –to warn
the Merchants of High Finance that although they come for their
pound of flesh, their contract does not give them license to
take even one drop of blood.
That is, if they haven’t already sucked so
much blood that any flesh they cut now is unlikely to bleed.
©2003 John Maxwell / Sunday December 6, 2003 /
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Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London
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The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
war on drugs. She offers an acute
analysis of the effect of this mass
incarceration upon former inmates who
will be discriminated against, legally,
for the rest of their lives, denied
employment, housing, education, and
public benefits. Most provocatively, she
reveals how both the move toward
colorblindness and affirmative action
may blur our vision of injustice: most
Americans know and don't know the truth
about mass incarceration—but her
carefully researched, deeply engaging,
and thoroughly readable book should
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update 1 March 2012