Friday, August 3, 2007

Jamaica, Portia Simpson Miller and Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations


In his 2007 book, The Darker Nations, Vijay Prashad tours the world (from Bandung to Cairo to La Paz, Belgrade to Havana) detailing the adventure of the countries of the Third World in the years of decolonization and its aftermath. In each city he describes the efforts of Third World leaders to create an alternative to the bipolar world of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, and the factors that led to the demise of that project.
In his chapter on Jamaica (Kingston: IMF-led Globalization), Prashad outlines the choices confronting Jamaica and other non-oil-producing countries in the Third World in the 1970s. Unable to pay its current account deficits and needing oil to run its industries, public sources and transportation system, Jamaica borrowed from Peter to pay Paul, sinking ever further into debt. According to Prashad, in 1976, the balance of payments deficit was $231.3 million. By 1982, the deficit was $612 billion and rising.
In addition to the other consequences stemming from the
structural adjustment programs that were a condition of IMF bailout (cuts in educational, health and other social programs), Prashad describes the collapse of the Jamaican women’s movement that had initiated women’s liberation gains such as legislation providing for equal pay, minimum wage, maternity leave and de-bastardization of children born out of wedlock. The withdrawal of state funding demanded by the structural adjustment program lead to a weakening of the women’s movement and a retrenchment of their activities, as the women’s groups became dependent on funding from private foundation from the U.S. and the global North. Those funding sources pulled funding when groups engaged in “unacceptable political” activities.Today, Portia Simpson Miller is Jamaica’s first woman Prime Minister, acceding to power by winning the support of her colleagues in the ruling party in the lead-up to the resignation of previous Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson. However, Simpson Miller’s accession to power does not reflect a widespread acceptance of women’s leadership roles in Jamaican politics. General elections will take place on August 27, giving the Jamaican public the opportunity to express their approval or disapproval of her leadership.

1 comment:

Eleanor Roosevelt said...

Jamaica also has a woman judge on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: http://www.corteidh.or.cr/composicion_detalle.cfm?id=may