Independence and Escalating Expectations

Your August 10 article, “Independence and Escalating Expectations,” takes the wrong approach in suggesting that Jamaica’s lack of progress, in comparison to its Caribbean neighbours on the Human Development Index (HDI), is attributable to wage inflation fuelled by a population living above its means and spending more than it earns. Martin Henry acknowledges that Jamaica has advanced considerably since the conclusion of British rule, especially with the expansion of public health infrastructure to the general public. Henry, however, attributes this progress to the “rising tide” of general improvements that have occurred worldwide. He does not give enough credit to the implementation of social democratic legislation under Manley’s government, which has improved conditions for most Jamaicans since independence. Jamaica’s high unemployment and inflation rates must be addressed, especially since the inflated cost of consumer products have the effect of reducing real wages.

First, Henry downplays the advances that have occurred in Jamaica’s 44 years of independence. While it is true that conditions have improved worldwide, many other developing countries have regressed despite this general improvement trend. According to Henry, this so-called “rising tide” should have lifted these countries as well. Second, while he is right that expectations are rising and most Jamaicans are living beyond their means, it will be difficult to temper rising expectations in a rapidly developing country within an increasingly globalized and consumerist world. It would be wise for the current Simpson-Miller administration to implement macroeconomic policies that stymie inflation and promote economic expansion, thus reducing unemployment and crime.