infrastructure in jamaicaThe physical infrastructure in Jamaica consists of an aging network of roads spanning nearly 19,000 kilometers. Several issues are prevalent with these roads, as they are too narrow for large quantities of traffic and are also misaligned. Most of the road infrastructure in Jamaica was developed in the 1990s.

Two of Jamaica’s largest economic sectors — tourism and the transport of goods — rely on this inefficient, and often dangerous, road network. The condition of the roads in Jamaica has led to increased traffic congestion, accidents and rising travel costs. With a population of 2.7 million, infrastructure in Jamaica fails to meet modern engineering standards for road quality and safety.

The roads are rapidly deteriorating as the population continues to rise on this small island, which threatens Jamaica’s economic stability. The road infrastructure in Jamaica must be addressed if the country aims to retain success in its main economic sectors.

Programs Addressing the Road Infrastructure in Jamaica

According to the Minister of Finance and Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation recently obtained funding for the continuation of two programs aimed at rehabilitating and restructuring the road network during the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

The Major Infrastructure Development Project (MIDP), with a budget of $16 billion, will restructure a set number of main roads, bringing them up to modern safety standards. These roads will be realigned or widened where necessary to accommodate the estimated daily amount of tourist traffic. In addition, this program plans to build three new bridges to increase the efficiency of freight transport. The Ministry intends to complete this project by the end of September 2018.

A second project aimed towards improving infrastructure in Jamaica is the Rural Road Rehabilitation Project II which began in 2008. With a budget of $500 million, this project will continue to rework 57 kilometers of roads to support the industrial, agricultural and tourist sectors in St. Mary, St. Ann, and Westmoreland. Due to budgeting issues, this project has required many extensions.

The government is working steadily towards its goal of decreasing the number of fatalities from car accidents to be under 300 annually. The modernization of roads is the key, and with the successful completion of these two major projects, infrastructure in Jamaica will be significantly closer to achieving that goal.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in JamaicaEarly in September 2017, the Executive Vice President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Julie Katzman (IDB), and the Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw, signed a pact for a loan of $20 million that will allow for greater credit access in Jamaica for micro, small and medium enterprises.

This initiative seeks to implement limited credit pledges to compensate approved financial institutions to upturn their lending to micro, small and medium enterprises in Jamaica. It will benefit the credit enhancement facility that was formed in 2009 and managed by the Development Bank of Jamaica.

The loan will permit the credit enhancement facility to assure a higher percentage of loans, with up to a maximum of $385,000.

These partial credit guarantees provided by the credit enhancement facility are anticipated to reimburse micro, small and medium enterprises that are incapable of meeting insurance requirements. As a result, the credit enhancement facility is acknowledging one of the major issues that limit an enterprise’s access to finance. Katzman pointed out that this will be the blueprint for an improved inclination and capability to loan to the micro, small and medium enterprises in the long run.

Such loans will enable relationship-building efforts among financial institutions and the enterprises, along with supporting the growth of the skill-set to measure credit earnestness. Credit access in Jamaica has become widely acknowledged, with enterprise owners becoming aware of the opportunity to obtain loans.

Since creditors have established greater credit access in Jamaica, the island’s central bank updated its reports noting that there was a collapse in new non-performing loans (NPLs). The collapse accounted for more than $1 billion from 2014 to the end of last December.

Securities institutions have, as a result, provided better credit underwriting and supervision for all commercial banks, building societies and merchant banks. These advances validate the banks’ commitment to managing the credit risks inherent in their portfolios, especially in a context where borrowers have demonstrated an increased appetite for debt.

Over the last two years, the Bank of Jamaica has stated that it has approved longer-tenured loans that back the facilitation of credit terms to revamp borrowers’ servicing of loans.

– Jalil Perry

Photo: Flickr

Deep within this tropical paradise lies a history of discrimination based on sex. From job titles and pay to violence, women on the island of Jamaica have often been seen as second place, however, that is slowly changing. The United Nations encourages full integration of women in the development process, ensuring their “fundamental freedoms on the basis of equality with men”. Climbing the ranks, women in Jamaica are leaving their mark and breaking down barriers. Holding 28 percent of chairs in senate, women’s empowerment in Jamaica is making headway. But it is not an easy road. Although there is a high number of women running for offices, the amount elected is significantly less.

While encouragement for women’s participation in politics is present, many view the opportunity with angst. Verbal abuse, discrimination by male colleagues, and lack of support from their counterparts are some experiences many women have faced. According to the fifth periodic report submitted to the United Nations the word “sex” is absent from the Jamaican Constitution, preventing a person from utilizing their constitutional rights where such discrimination is present. Currently, parts of legislation are being reviewed which include the Domestic Violence Act and the Sexual Offenses Act to bring attention to these areas.

Appointed in December 2009, and re-appointed in January 2012 Kamina Johnson Smith is the Senator and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. As a believer in a better Jamaica, Smith states that the government is committed to the achievement of gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment in Jamaica.

The Women’s Empowerment Principals (WEPs) is a list created by the United Nations stating several ways to encourage women to be apart of the workforce in an influential and enriching manner. At a recent consultation representatives of Jamaican companies who had signed onto the WEPs partnership were Island Grill, Sandals, RUBiS, Facey and Facey Law, JMMB and Women Entrepreneur Network (WEN Caribbean)/Zinergy International.

With the government’s backing, women’s empowerment in Jamaica is spreading throughout the island. In 2008, Jamaica reported 59 percent of its managers being female, one of the highest rank in the world. Increasing the growth of women workers and merging into other lanes of women’s empowerment will occur as long as the political transformation continues.

– Tara Jackson

Photo: Flickr

Development ProjectsThe mission statement of the World Bank is to, “end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity.” The World Bank has funded over 12,000 development projects across the globe since 1947, and in Jamaica, these projects have provided much-needed assistance to those who need it most. Here is a list of five development projects in progress in Jamaica that are aimed toward improving the lives of the impoverished.

  1. Jamaica Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project
    Launched in 2016, this project aims to increase Jamaica’s ability to handle natural disasters or dramatic climate events via a four-part plan. The first step is to increase the island’s technological infrastructure to allow for better tracking and predicting of weather events. The next component of this project is the improvement of physical infrastructure on the island to better resist and withstand natural disasters. The third step is to improve emergency services, so that in the event of a disaster, people can more rapidly be assisted. The fourth and final component, which ties all of the parts of this project together, is administrative oversight by the World Bank to ensure accountability.  This project comes at an investment cost of $30 million from the World Bank, a worthy donation that will ensure Jamaica can withstand natural disasters to come.
  2. Early Child Development Project
    The Early Child Development Project (ECD) sets out a three-tier strategy to ensure a better future for at-risk youth. The first goal of this project is to increase the regularity of developmental monitoring, health risk screenings and emergency intervention procedures for children. The second goal is to improve early childhood education facilities through both physical renovation and program development. Lastly, the ECD aims to strengthen and improve training for early childhood education groups, i.e. the adults responsible for providing care for children.  The World Bank began this project in 2014, and has since pledged $14 million toward the cause.
  3. Second Competitiveness and Fiscal Management Program
    Commencing in June of 2017, this project is the World Bank’s most recent development project in Jamaica, with $70 million in funding. The goal is to strengthen Jamaica’s economy and financial sector through a two-part strategy. First, the World Bank aims to support legislative reforms which will enhance the development of the Jamaican economy. Secondly, this plan aims to increase the availability of fiscal management for both businesses and private citizens. If all goes to plan, this project will help Jamaica become a developed country by the year 2030.
  4. Youth Employment in Digital and Animation Industries
    This project began in 2014 with the help of a $20 million loan from the World Bank, and aims to increase employment opportunities for Jamaican youth, specifically in the rapidly expanding digital and animation industries. The World Bank’s plan for this project puts funding into each step along the journey to working in these fields, from early childhood skills training, to investing in the digital animation industries themselves to stimulate growth and job availability. This project also provides funding toward individuals carrying out research, development and innovation in these fields.
  5. Jamaica Integrated Community Development Project
    The World Bank has pledged to provide $42 million from 2014 to 2020 in an effort to improve safety and infrastructure in communities across Jamaica. This project aims to improve roads, drainage, electrical, sewage and water systems and community organizations.

With the assistance of the World Bank, these development projects will encourage Jamaica’s social and economic growth as a nation. With hope and continued aid, Jamaica may be pulled out of poverty and into a bright future.

– Tyler Troped
Photo: Flickr

Why is Jamaica Poor

Considered an upper middle-income country as stated by the World Bank, Jamaica has much to improve upon within its economy to decrease poverty rates in the country. Jamaica is considered to be one of the slowest and most unstable economies in the world, weakened by high debt rates. As for today, Jamaica’s poverty rate has improved, with a 1.7 percent growth of GDP during 2016 and an expected 2 percent for 2017. Many reforms have been instituted to reduce the country’s debt. However, Jamaica still has a lot to improve on in order to eliminate poverty. So, what are the answers to the question why is Jamaica poor? High crime, unemployment and inflation are a few of the answers to this question.

Most criminal activity in Jamaica is related to gang activity and use of illegal drugs. Police data confirms the occurrence of many murders in 2017, with an increase of 19 percent and a total of 639 people killed from January 2017 to June 2017. This represents an average of four murders per day. This places Jamaica’s homicide rate among the top five highest national homicide rates in the world.

Jamaica also experiences increasingly high unemployment rates within the population. The Statistics Institute of Jamaica reveals a slight decline in unemployment, with a rate of 12.9 per cent as of October 2016 and 12.2 as of April 2017. This clearly shows there was only a slight improvement between 2016 and 2017, but the rates are still high as of today.

Another reason Jamaica is poor is its high inflation rate – averaging 9.54 percent between 2002 and 2017. As of July 2017, Jamaica’s inflation rate had declined to 4.4 percent. Jamaica has been known to spend half of its income on imported good for basic necessities. The country relies mostly on goods such as food, gasoline and clothing. Its high reliance on imported goods creates an increasing deficit, endangering the state of its economy and keeping people below the poverty line.

After asking why Jamaica is poor it is also important to ask what the solutions are to end poverty in Jamaica. By reducing Jamaica’s crime rates and having more employment opportunities, Jamaica would increase its chances to improve its economy and become richer in more ways than one. Seeing Jamaica’s slight improvements in recent years, it offers some hope for eventually ending poverty in the future.

Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in JamaicaIn the 2007 Human Development Index published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Jamaica ranked 101 of 177 countries – the second-lowest in the Caribbean, ahead of only Haiti. Since then, the nation’s rank has climbed to 94; however, human rights in Jamaica and national human development still face several obstacles that need to be addressed.

Poverty and public security are the primary human rights concerns in Jamaica. Gang violence and violent murders are rampant and affect a majority of the population, especially the poorest. Although there has been a slight decrease in gang activity in the last few years, gang violence still accounts for a majority of murders in Jamaica. Last year, the Acting Police Commissioner reported that 65 percent of murders were linked to gangs.

Police violence is also a major issue. The state’s answer to significant violent crime has largely been to respond with its own violence. Human rights activists in recent years have reported the prevalence of unlawful killings on behalf of the state police force on the order of – or complicit with – higher authorities. Since 2000, it is alleged that the Jamaican constabulary force has killed over 3,000 people. Although these killings have been decreasing since 2010, the numbers are still high. In 2016, there was an average of two police killings per week.

Beyond the killings themselves, international human rights watchdog organizations have claimed that police officers perpetuate an atmosphere of fear. The planting and tampering of evidence, along with the intimidation and terrorizing of witnesses, are commonplace.

Another major obstacle to improving human rights in Jamaica is the treatment of the LGBTQ community. Hate crimes directed at these individuals have been committed both by citizens and the police. Between 2009 and 2012, estimates show that over 200 attacks, including physical attacks, mob attacks and home invasions, were directed at LGBTQ members. More recently, the government has formally acknowledged the issue and has put in place initiatives, such as a division of the police focused on diversity, to help aid the problem.

The state of human rights in Jamaica over the past decade has been improving. Initiatives on behalf of the government and the support and direction of human rights organizations have attempted to systematically address the issues that plagued the Jamaican community, and have already made progress. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement and as long as Jamaica suffers from chronic poverty, human rights issues will always be present.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr

Jamaica's Farmland
To relieve the repercussions of climate change, the Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/Voca) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are active in Jamaica’s farmland, implementing Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change (Ja REEACH).

Phase one of Ja REEACH introduced agroforestry: agriculture incorporating the cultivation and conservation of trees. The Farmer Field School provided farmers equipped with the latest climate change-smart agriculture techniques. ACDI/Voca determined the local contributors to climate change, affecting the quality and quantity of produce in Jamaica’s farmland, to further develop an appropriate reduction action plan. Jamaican youth between the ages of 14 to 28 were educated on present and future impacts of climate change, the expectations of adaption and mitigation and the importance of their decisions in conjunction with ACDI/Voca programs.

Because of Ja REEACH’s first phase, 395,035 timber and fruit seedlings were provided to support reforestation, 300 farmers graduated from 17 climate change-smart agriculture schools in agroforestry and horticulture and 100 youth graduated from five climate change agent training groups. There was also an 83 percent increase in climate change awareness and 147,542 trees were planted in a forest reserve.

Phase two of Ja REEACH organized agroforestry systems that conserve the ecosystem and natural resources. Farmers created a riparian buffer strip to control and regulate the river bank to prevent overflowing and reduce the likelihood of flooding in the Ballard River of Jamaica’s Clarendon parish. Its forestry department provided more timber seedlings to expand the riparian buffer strip.

Clarendon’s James Hill Farming Group has group members that are trained by Home Economics Specialists from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority to learn how to adapt to and utilize Jamaica’s farmland. Using guava from recently matured guava trees, members are producing jams, jellies and purées. In Eastern Jamaica, the Golden Valley Apiculture Group has multiplied their initial 13 hives and tree seedlings into shipments of honey to a community of about 100 households in St. Thomas.

On July 14, two Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) were signed. The first between USAID and ACDI/Voca’s Ja REEACH with Red Stripe/Project Grow to overcome the challenges of commercially grown cassava, thus advancing food security in local space and economy, meeting the demands of Jamaican marketplaces. Red Stripe’s Project Grow is working on replacing imported high maltose corn syrup with locally grown cassava in their beer products. This change brings a consistent and secure market to farmers and expanding Red Stripe’s 1,000-acre farm. Red Stripe aims to substitute 40 percent of high-maltose corn syrup with cassava by 2020.

The second MOU creates a relationship between ACDI/Voca’s Ja REEACH with Delaware State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Tuskegee University. These universities are providing archives of data, studied and collected over decades, training students and participating stakeholders. Both MOUs create networks harnessing the resources and knowledge of all parties to enhance Jamaica’s farmland as a collective response to climate change.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in Jamaica
The poverty rate in Jamaica is decreasing due to economic growth. The government wants this trend to continue. It is stated in the December 2016 National Poverty Eradication Programme (NPEP) that its vision for every Jamaican is to consume goods and services above minimum acceptable national standards. The government envisions a state where everyone has equal opportunities and support to achieve and maintain income security and improved quality of life.

As with any dream, there are several obstacles to attaining this vision. There are also successes that signal the vision is possible. Here are eight facts about efforts to further reduce the poverty rate in Jamaica.

  1. According to the government’s NPEP, in 2012, 19.9% of the population was living at or below the poverty line.
  2. Unemployment rates have fallen in the country. According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, the unemployment rate in Jamaica in January 2017 was 12.7%, compared to 13.3% in January 2016.
  3. While unemployment rates have gone down for the population as a whole, unemployment rates remain high for youth. According to the World Bank, the unemployment rate for youth is 28.6%. This is leading to high levels of crime and violence.
  4. According to the World Bank, Jamaica is considered to be an upper-middle-income country. The United Nations Development Programme states that Jamaica received this classification in 2010 due to being on track to eradicating extreme hunger and ensuring environmental sustainability.
  5. Even though Jamaica is viewed as an upper-middle-income country, it faces many obstacles in economic growth. The World Factbook reports that Jamaica’s economy has grown on average less than one percent per year for the last three decades. Economic growth has been slow due to a high debt-to-GDP ratio and high rates of crime and corruption.
  6. Focus Economics highlights that tourism is helping the Jamaican economy. The island welcomed its one-millionth tourist in mid-June 2017, two weeks before receiving a private investment of $1 billion for a chain of hotels and resorts.
  7. According to the World Factbook, Jamaica has made progress in reducing its high debt-to-GDP ratio. In 2012 it was at 150%. It is now at 115%. Collaboration with the International Monetary Fund made this achievement possible.
  8. Poverty programs are being instituted in Jamaica. Most of these are state-led. In its NPEP, Jamaica outlines its goals for eradicating poverty. Its first goal is to eliminate extreme food poverty by 2022. Its second goal is to get the national poverty line reduced significantly below 10 percent by 2030.

There are several poverty reduction programs currently in place in Jamaica. Further reducing the poverty rate in Jamaica is feasible due to the government’s thorough NPEP. If the government reaches the goals outlined in the policy, poverty reduction will be systemic and all Jamaicans will be able to realize the dream of equitable opportunities. While there are significant challenges, Jamaica’s economic future is promising.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

Jamaica is known to be an upper-middle-income country. Yet, it is one of the slowest-developing economies in the world. Its poverty rate has improved, decreasing from 19.9% in 2012 to 18.7% today. Although there is a significant improvement, there are still present causes that answer the question, “why is Jamaica poor?” Crime, unemployment rates, reliability on imported goods and other social conflicts contribute to poverty in Jamaica.

Jamaica constantly faces crime and violence. It has an above-average crime rate as well as high poverty levels. People commit crimes usually when they are in need. Because of poor conditions, there is a need to steal food out of hunger or other circumstances. These criminal acts are a direct effect of Jamaica’s impoverished state.

Unemployment is a great challenge many Jamaican families go through. The unemployment rate is around 12.9% as of the end of last year. This creates difficulty for children trying to go to school. With no education, there is no social growth within the community. This is another answer to the question “why is Jamaica poor?”

Jamaica’s education system requires most schools to have fees. This creates a barrier for many households because they cannot afford these fees. Limiting children’s education limits their opportunities to reduce poverty in the country, and the cycle continues.

With an 8.29% inflation rate and high reliance on imported goods for daily necessities, most of Jamaica is scraping its way through survival. And so, why is Jamaica poor? Jamaica’s public debt, unemployment and crime rates have weakened the economy over the years. While Jamaica has many in poverty now, it does not mean it is its fate. With organizations working to reduce poverty around the world and Jamaica’s significant improvement, the country has a developing future.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr

Over the years, diseases in Jamaica have been exposed as well as evolved. These diseases have been tracked and analyzed and placed in a data chart to keep the residents and travelers informed. A common informer is the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The information it provides is updated every year, and as of this year, the CDC has provided information on recent common diseases in Jamaica. The list it has provided includes hepatitis A and B, typhoid, yellow fever and the most recent cases of the Zika virus.

Hepatitis A may be caught throughout the country, through contaminated water and food. Hepatitis B through contaminated needles or blood product. While hepatitis A may be cleared in a week or so, hepatitis B is highly infectious.
Typhoid can also be caused by contaminated water and food in Jamaica. The disease is transmitted orally, when someone with poor body hygiene may infect the food and water being served.

Yellow fever is a virus spread when bitten by an Aedes mosquito but cannot be spread from person to person. Symptoms may disappear after a week, but there may be cases in which symptoms go into the toxic third phase.

The Zika virus is a hazard in Jamaica and is the first thing presented in the health information section of the CDC website. The Zika virus is a disease in Jamaica that is also spread by mosquitoes. When people are bitten by these mosquitoes, they are infected and other people may be infected by human contact.

The risk is most dangerous in pregnant women and women who are trying to get pregnant. The infection in these women may cause birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control strongly recommends pregnant women not to travel, being extra cautious if they do, and using condoms during intercourse.

These common diseases in Jamaica are being analyzed as cases come in. The information brought forth will make travelers and residents more safe and aware.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr