Though formally independent since 1962, Jamaica, as with most of the Caribbean region, has remained economically subservient to powerful capitalist countries. Institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, in which former colonial powers and the United States have supreme control, now function to maintain the same form of economic exploitation that existed under colonialism. This form of continuing colonization is sustained by both the deliberate efforts of the IMF to monopolize international capital and the perpetuation of colonial thought in the region. Thus, though they may not always share the same principles, powerful capitalist "donors" and Caribbean politicians have formed an alliance of debt for Caribbean countries. This cycle of debt and loans under the guise of "aid" helps to sustain a mentality of dependency that keeps Caribbean countries tied to capitalist interests.
When Jamaica was "granted" independence from Great Britain forty years ago, it inherited economic and political structures that had been used to serve the interests of Britain for three centuries. However, Jamaica and the entire Caribbean region except for Cuba did little to move away from this capitalist system after independence. Rather, many leaders began to look for ways of integrating their economies even further into the same system that had exploited them under colonial rule. Understandably, many independence leaders throughout the Two-Thirds World believed that if independence was achieved, they should be able to compete as equals with other countries within this system. However, this naïveté was merely a reflection of the extent to which many Caribbean politicians remained trapped by a colonization of conscious and conscience; colonial education taught that there were only two economic models, capitalist and communist, and that the capitalist one should be followed no matter what the cost. In this way, Jamaican administrations from that of Michael Manley to P.J. Patterson have submitted to IMF demands despite the severe economic and social effects on their country.
The economic subservience of Caribbean countries to European and North American business interests has led many to conclude that colonialism never actually ended. Throughout its history in the Caribbean, colonialism has always been met with resistance, which has forced colonial powers to find new ways of defining their relationship with those they seek to control. The Haitian Revolution forced the French and British colonial regimes to acknowledge an end to formal enslavement, which was replaced by indentureship.1 In the twentieth century, resistance to colonial rule forced these powers to acknowledge a gradual shift to "independence". However, by the 1960s the political arrangement of former colonial powers continuing to dominate "independent" countries had already been well practiced. In 1822, the British foreign minister Lord Canning declared, "Spanish America is free, and if we do not mishandle our affairs, she is British."2 In nineteenth century Latin America, the British looked to exploit socio-economic differences in order to dominate the economies of the region. Thus, such divide and rule strategies did not vanish with the end of formal "colonialism", and they continue to the present day.
Within the context of independent states, the perpetuation of colonial thought is necessary in order for this economic violation to continue. Arnold Itwaru describes that, "The project of consciousness control, of trying to make us despise and forget ourselves, came to us in the name of Education.… Education was going to save us, we were told."3 In order for Britain or the United States to be able to profit from Caribbean countries, they need partners in the region. In an independent country that has been victimized under the international capitalist system for centuries, it would seem highly unreasonable for leaders of that country to continue to look for help from those who have historically been responsible for their oppression. However, the gateway to "development" is still often seen as following the advice of EuroAmerican capitalism. Itwaru argues that the continuing colonization that exists today is a result of a continuing colonial mentality.
"That Occupation has ended, as it has for most of those places reduced into colonies by Britain and its colonizing European counterparts, but the colonization of consciousness and the usurpation of the means for people's survival have continued, proliferating in many guises. The continuation of colonization resides within the continuing colonization of consciousness, a seeing ecstatically imbued with notions of Progress."4 Perhaps the most problematic aspect of this outlook is that which identifies one's own country as dependent on so-called "developed" or "First World" countries. This dependency mentality is closely related to the inferiority dialectic described by Frantz Fanon. According to Fanon, this dependency or inferiority complex has been "created" by the act of colonization.5 As Arnold Itwaru describes it, "This delusional gaze is the gaze of dependence. It compliments the imperial gaze, validates it, and thus furthers the designation of our inferiority."6 This training in perception has led many people to believe that there is no alternative other than a capitalist or Marxist economic model. This frame of reference has led many principled politicians such as Michael Manley, featured in the film Life and Debt, to accept IMF policies despite knowing that it would lead to further underdevelopment. Thus, although many 'progressive' Caribbean leaders vehemently oppose their region's exploitation within the capitalist model, most are unwilling to propose an alternative system.
The International Monetary Fund, though an organization that claims to work for poverty reduction, has been a leading catalyst of inequality, poverty and indebtedness in the Caribbean region and much of the Two-Thirds World. The role of the IMF has been to lend money at full interest rates as a last resort to countries that need to pay off debts. The condition of the loans is that the government will enact policies that will squeeze out enough money for the country to recover. These include the devaluation of currency and the cutting of social services, which often have devastating consequences on society, not to mention the sovereignty of the country. However, power within the IMF corresponds to a country's share of the world economy. Therefore, the United States, Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom are the ones who hold the overwhelming majority of decision-making power. Because of this, these countries will naturally advance their own interests in their roles within the Fund. When the mask of internationalism is removed and this power structure is examined, it becomes clear that the IMF, like so many other supposedly "international" organizations are merely alliances of rich capitalist countries with a mandate to intervene in the Two-Thirds World.
The exploitation of the Caribbean region by EuroAmerican capitalist imperialism has been the major cause of 'underdevelopment'. Walter Rodney has explained 'underdevelopment' in the following way: "All the countries named as 'underdeveloped' in the world are exploited by others; and the underdevelopment with which the world is now preoccupied is a product of capitalist, imperialist, and colonialist exploitation."7 If international capitalism is a method by which 'underdeveloped' countries are exploited, then the International Monetary Fund is the engine of that exploitation and underdevelopment. According to its own description of itself, the IMF's goals are to "promote the health of the world economy,… prevent crises in the [international monetary] system,… foster economic growth and high levels of employment, and provide temporary financial assistance to countries to help ease balance of payments adjustment."8 Even authors who are favorable to the institution have acknowledged the failure of many of these objectives. Anders Danielson has identified "the large budget deficit, with the associated demands for large cuts in expenditures," as one of the primary obstacles to economic growth and poverty reduction in Jamaica.9 However, this indebtedness, which is recognized as a barrier to economic growth, is created in the first place by the servicing of debt to the IMF.
Most importantly, the policies recommended by the IMF, World Bank, WTO and other similar multi-national organizations often work to further cripple the internal economy as the countries who hold power in these organizations look for markets for their own goods. Stephanie Black's Life and Debt illustrated several examples in which the policies of the IMF as accepted by the Jamaican government worked to ruin certain local industries and create unemployment. In the film, IMF Deputy Director Stanley Fischer stated that the goal of the Fund in Jamaica was to help open up the economy of the island so that it could "benefit" from the products sold by other countries. Thus, cheaper, government-subsidized American and Canadian potatoes, powdered milk, and beef could be imported freely into the Jamaican market, driving local businesses to ruin. Meanwhile, multi-national corporations are able to use the "Free Zone" as a source of cheap labour to help keep the price of their goods down while local industries that pay more are driven out of business.
The unreasonableness of such policies from a Caribbean context has not prevented nearly every country in the region from engaging IMF demands. Michael Manley, the Prime Minister of Jamaica from 1972 to 1980 who ran on an anti-IMF platform with the slogan "We are not for sale", was eventually pressured into signing a deal in 1977. Though he remembers, "Going to the IMF and signing that agreement was one of the more bitter, traumatic experiences of my life," Manley did find it necessary to go to the IMF with the country in trouble.10 Though it may not always be the case, if there is no source of money available to a country, is it reasonable for the government to seek aid from those who are responsible for the its "underdevelopment" in the first place? Although those that do are often systematically isolated and antagonized by Western capitalist countries, few countries have opted to look for other options.
In opting to stay out of a "French Community" after independence, Sekou Touré spoke for most Guineans when he said, "We prefer poverty in liberty to riches in slavery."11 In some cases, a similar dilemma faces many Caribbean countries today, though the outcome of taking another route does not necessitate continued poverty. Colonial modes of thought combined with the intense pressures of Western capitalism have created a cyclical pattern of borrowing, indebtedness, and more borrowing from the IMF. Until new options are explored, it is likely that Jamaica and much of the Caribbean will continue to fall deeper into debt.
1 James, C.L.R. The Black Jacobins. New York: Vintage Books, 1938 (1963, 1989).
Mangru, Basdeo. Abolition and Indenture. Toronto: TSAR, 1993.
2 from Pregger-Roman, Charles. "Nineteenth-Century Chile: A Case Study: Subordination, the Class Process, and the Relative Autonomy of States." in Latin American Perspectives, Volume 18, Issue 1 (Winter, 1991). p. 118
3 Itwaru, Arnold. Closed Entrances. Toronto: TRAR, 1994. p. 11