The UWI on Jamaica’s Independence: What has Changed?

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By Adrian Reid

Courtesy of JIS

On Saturday, August 6, 2022, Jamaica celebrated 60 years of independence, and as we reflect on our country’s achievements since independence, we seek to balance the gains with the evident gaps. In a sharp critique, Attorney-at-Law Gordon Robinson argued that ” Jamaica’s greatest national achievement in 60 years of independence has been to survive”(Robinson, 2022). He said that a higher level of achievement would require more education and opportunity, readily available healthcare, welfare, accountability, governance and real democracy. Robinson’s points are not new – a point made frustratingly clear when we dive into the archive. From before Independence dawned, young intellectuals at the UWI have sought to highlight areas for attention if Jamaica was to succeed.

In an article published in the 1961-1962 Pelican Annual Magazine, then UWI students, G. Bullen and R. Fletcher examined the strengths and weaknesses of sectors like agriculture, tourism, and housing and public utilities, and made recommendations for their successful development. Economic issues identified included Jamaica’s impractical reliance on product imports for which we produced and exported raw materials; 95% of economic control belonging to 14% of the population; and the instability of revenue from sugar exports. Other socio-economic concerns were high unemployment and societal inequalities due to wage gaps. In order to address these pitfalls Bullen and Fletcher proposed distributing incentives to encourage agricultural development to ensure food security and provide employment, develop domestic tourism, and reclaim majority ownership of marketable industries like bauxite. The discussions highlighted hopes of achieving equal distribution of wealth, resources and opportunities, high standards of living, and national ownership and control of the economy. Attaining these objectives was regarded as a key indicator of the country’s development.

Today these issues remain: we are heavily dependent on imports to keep our population fed, and even more of our industries are owned by external parties. Our roads and other infrastructure have improved, but are now owned by a “maze of foreign-owned companies” (Robinson, 2022). There is greater access to opportunities, welfare, healthcare, education, and other essential resources, but 60 years after independence, many Jamaicans strongly agree with Robinson’s assessment that we are in a state of survival. Although we have come a long way, it is clear that Bullen and Fletcher’s recommendations for independence have not been adequately implemented. We, the people, often criticize the government for the country’s deficiencies, but it is time to reconsider our stance. Our nation is our responsibility. All Jamaicans must play their part “so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship, and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race” (Sherlock, 1962).

References

Bullen, G. R. E, and R. D. Fletcher. “Literary: From Colonialism to Independence: Some Economic Considerations,” In The UWI Pelican Annual, ed. Frank Knight, 78-89. The Herald Ltd., 1962.

“Jamaica – Celebrating 60 Years of Independence”, Jamaica Information Services, July 15, 2022. https://jis.gov.jm/information/get-the-facts/jamaica-celebrating-60-years-of-independence/

Robinson, Gordon. “Jamaica is still alive…in spite of it all.Jamaica Gleaner, August 6, 2022. https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/focus/20220807/gordon-robinson-jamaica-still-alive-spite-it-all.

Sherlock, Hugh. “Jamaica National Pledge,” 1962.

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