Jamaica, 1830-1930: A Study in Economic Growth

Jamaica, 1830-1930: A Study in Economic Growth

Jamaica, 1830-1930: A Study in Economic Growth

Jamaica, 1830-1930: A Study in Economic Growth

Excerpt

The purpose of this book is to see how far national income accounting can help us to understand long-term historical change. This task involves two problems: is it possible to prepare meaningful estimates for an historical period and, if so, do they increase our insight into economic development?

As to the problem of computing national income estimates, it is surprising how much can be done without too much guessing. Jamaica is, in this respect, specially favoured because it formed the subject of many commissions of enquiry and of a great many books -- an advantage of having so often been so controversial an island. No claim as to the absolute accuracy of the estimates is made. The quality of the data naturally varies for different aspects of economic activity. For example, we have very little information about the output of ground provisions which accounts for about one-third of total output. All the same, sufficient figures have been found to give fair confidence that the estimates are not wildly out.

It must be remembered that one of the advantages of national income accounting is that one estimate checks another. Figures of population, acreages, wages, costs, consumer expenditures, imports, exports, etc., are all called upon and used in such a way that inconsistencies tend to show up. Because of inadequate data we are not able to make all the independent checks that national income statisticians expect to be able to make. Thus we cannot check the accuracy of totals through independent estimates of output, income and expenditure. But we are able to make many checks through individual figures and to decide which to accept and which to reject with rather more confidence than can be felt by historians using other methods. For example, R. M. Martin estimated the value of output of 'Domestic Manufactures' (i.e. carpentering, tailoring, smithing etc., for the local market) at £2 million in 1834. The number of workers in these occupations at this date was only about 12,000. Per capita output was thus about £167 p.a. As most of the raw materials used in producing furniture, clothing, etc., were imported, average incomes were practically the same as average output. But this would . . .

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