The Relevance of Strategic Intervention Today: The Case of Jamaica and the Bahamas

By Karagiannis, Nikolaos | Ibero-americana, January 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Relevance of Strategic Intervention Today: The Case of Jamaica and the Bahamas


Karagiannis, Nikolaos, Ibero-americana


I. introduction

Historically, international trade has always been an important part of Caribbean economies. The striking characteristic of Caribbean countries' dependence on a limited number of exports is that these exports are characterized by a variety of certain constraints, especially lack of a domestic capacity to alter their production technology. Indeed, lack of technical capacity has placed limits on Caribbean economies' transformation process. Technological-industrial dependence has been consolidated, and export production is determined by demand from the main hegemonic centers. Consequently, the indigenous initiatives could not result in widespread demand and supply breakthroughs to transform the structure of local economies.

Evidently, the failure to engender the rise of a developmental state is a common feature of Caribbean countries in general; this particular feature has been a by-product of their international political economy. During the colonial period, the state remained mother country oriented. After decolonization, it became patronage based. At critical historical moments, the state power holders shied away from deepening the process of capital accumulation in order to safeguard colonial interests, and later, the political survival of the new political class. More importantly, the compromised character of the Caribbean state inhibits its capacity to act as an agent for deploying power to assist in broad-gauged, long-term national strategies. This was manifest in the failures and short-circuiting of transformative impulses that occurred during the last forty years or so (Marshal 1998:4344).

This paper seeks to revisit the Caribbean Developmental State framework that was proposed by Karagiannis (2002a, b; 2003a, b; 2004). It is recognized that the Caribbean public sector is now required to adapt its role and purpose to both "the contemporary realities and historical factors", as national governments try to respond to the challenges of the new millennium. These challenges require Caribbean governments to construct new policy platforms on which to work. It certainly implies activist government. Certain countries, notably the high performing newly industrialized countries of East Asia (NICs), have demonstrated that strategies characterized by high quality state action in selected policy arenas have greatly enhanced productive capability, international competitiveness, and national prosperity.

Thus, the Caribbean state requires an alternative policy direction. It needs to have strong policy instruments which will enable it to plan and finance its strategic goals such as sustained growth, job creation, higher mass living standards, industrial competency and environmental protection. This re-tooling of government policy-making requires a re-thinking of the form of government intervention and, especially, an emphasis on its "modern" developmental role. This is a crucial challenge today facing Caribbean territories.

The argument of the paper is as follows. The first section summarizes past development efforts in Jamaica and The Bahamas, and evaluates these efforts and policies. The second section seeks to chart a Developmental State framework for Jamaica and The Bahamas: an institutional system which appears to have been used with enormous success in East Asia but, unfortunately, has been neglected in the region. The final main section of the paper identifies key strategic requirements and offers alternative policy suggestions, while considering socio-cultural and historical factors.

II. PAST DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS

The Jamaican experience

As in other parts of the Caribbean in the 1950s and 1960s, successive Jamaican governments pursued policies of industrialization aimed at encouraging the establishment of both import-substitution and exportoriented manufacturing enterprises. Foreign investments in the bauxite industry were chiefly responsible for the high growth rate and the structural changes experienced by the Jamaican economy since World War II. …

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