REPORT #234 April 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

Jamaica, a country in Caricom, that had for many decades led the other smaller island countries of the Caribbean has suddenly found itself on the wrong side of the sticky end of a stick with global trade effects. Jamaican economic and political experts had often pushed the line with other Caricom countries, that the way to go, was light industry, for labor intensive low wage jobs. Belize never did compete in this field, because there is neither plentiful labor, or cheap labor. In fact, Belize imports most of it's needed labor from nearby republics. The so-called available labor in the port city, were neither qualified by education, or available by inclination to move where the work was, in the country of Belize. And labor in the rural districts could live quite comfortably without the need to sell their souls for a harsh work environment and 40 hour a week, 9-5 job that paid little cash in return for lost leisure and social values in the community. So, the idea of cheap low paid factory jobs never panned out in Belize. The standard of living was relatively high also, despite the supposedly "poverty" level, as judged by manufacturing country experts from colder temperate zone countries. These foreign experts and value systems pushed on to the Belizean politicians for policy making, found short shrift in the real world market place of Belizean rural district labor. Belize enjoys immense surpluses of land, a beautiful climate, and a very small population. Anyone can build their own house, or grow enough food and have fruit trees to get by. Work is for when you want to purchase some imported manufactured goods. Not for the rich style of leisurely living enjoyed by most village and country folk in the country of Belize. Work is usually seasonal. There are also seasons when you relax and catch up on local social events, gossip, and just mess around for fun.

Jamaica, a very overcrowded island, but still capable of the same kind of living as in Belize had a rude awakening recently. The politicians of their port town of Kingston, the old colonial capital and now the new one since independence, had led their citizens down a garden path of roses supposedly; that suddenly is backfiring with the Global World Village Economy.

Hong Kong based East Ocean Textiles in Kingston are pulling out of Jamaica. They are disassembling it's 16 year old operation a few weeks back. It has already laid off 700 local workers and sent home 400 workers recruited from overseas, said Peter King, an advisor to the Industry andf Investment Minister Philip Paulwell. All told, 2,100 jobs are going to be lost, as the factory is moved to a cheaper economic climate in another country. The major problem being unions and labor costs. Another 1000 jobs will be lost in the coming weeks and the ripple trickle down effect is going to be felt widely in supporting grocery stores and homes.

There is probably a moral to this news. Maybe several. Can you find them?

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