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 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.



 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

By John Maxwell


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 constituents.

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 beings.

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 LearJets

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 not commingle.

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.

Scorpion Time

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 northcoast.

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 /

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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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 Colorblindness

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 change that.—Publishers Weekly

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