Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Essay on Jamaica

Essay on Jamaica

The island of Jamaica is located in the Caribbean a region known for its tropical climate. It is one of the three islands in the Northern Caribbean forming the Greater Antilles. It stretches 146 miles from eat to west and lies 90 miles to the South of Cuba and 100 miles to the South-west of Haiti. Jamaica has the world’s seventh largest natural harbor (Kingston Harbor) strategically located on the north/south east/west axis through the Caribbean, approximately 32 miles from the trade routes passing through the Panama Canal. Arawaks from South America first settled Jamaica prior to Christopher Columbus first arrival in 1494. Spain subsequently brought African slaves to Jamaica in 1517 after the Arawaks had been exterminated by disease, slavery and war.

In 1655 British forces seized the island and in 1670 Great Britain gained formal possession of it and retained absolute control over it until around 1930, even though they had abolished slavery in 1834, finally allowing the former slaves who continued to inhabitant it a degree of local political control. Jamaica held its first election under full universal adult suffrage in 1944 and in 1958 it joined several other United Kingdom territories in the West Indies Federation. However, in 1961 the Jamaican voters rejected membership. Jamaica gained its independence in 1962 and has remained a member of the Commonwealth.

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The United States of America had its beginnings in the seventeenth-century (1776), more than a hundred years after the first explorations of North America. By the time that the English settlers, now known as Pilgrims, took their six-to-twelve weeks voyage on overcrowded crafts to the new world, Spanish colonies had already been established in Mexico, the West Indies and South America. Many of these English settlers were fleeting what they called religious persecution. Later they were joined by convicts who opted to go to the new world rather than serve sentences in England, and settlers and their servants who came to grow cotton to be shipped back to Europe. The original occupants of America, The Indians, were eventually defeated in wars designated for them. Following the Treaty of Paris in 1783 the United States of America was formally recognized, even though it had its beginnings in 1776.

Having expanded to 50 states today with borders between Canada and Mexico and on the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean, the United States has a land size of 12,034 km and now has a population of 290,342,554 (July 2003 est.). The most traumatic experiences in the history of the nation was the Civil War (1861-65), which divided the states over the issue of the abolition of slavery amongst other issues. On the economic side, the Great Depression of the 1930s also negatively in very high unemployment and a significant slow down in business activities. Then there was the participation in World Wars I and II which motivated and mobilized the citizens to build the country into an economic and a military superpower. The economy has grown to a $15 billion one with an enviable blend of exports and foreign investments creating the most economically successful nation in the history of the world. The United States also leads in scientific discoveries, technological discoveries, pharmaceutical discoveries, medical discoveries, military capabilities and standard of living for its people amongst others. The broad scope of advancement in such a short period time is what causes other nations to use the passion for success displayed by Americans as their model.

The ethnic make-up of America or the USA as the country is sometimes called is vast and so much so that the country is often times referred to as “the great melting pot”. The following ethnic groups account for Americans: white 77.1%, black 12.9%, Asian 4.2%, Amerindian and Alaska native 1.5%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.3%, other 4% (2000) note: a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the US Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean a person of Latin American descent living in the US who may be of any race or ethnic group (white, black, asian,e tc). The languages spoken are English and Spanish and the religious affiliations of the citizenry are: Protestants 56%, Roman Catholic 28%, Jewish 2%, other 4%, none 10% (1989). The overall literacy rate is 97% (1989) and the life expectancy is 77.4 years.

Conversely, the ethnic mix of the Jamaican population is: black 90.9%, East Indian 1.3%, Chinese 0.2%, White 0.2%, mixed 7.3% and other 0.1%. The population is 2,695,867 (July 2003 est.) with an annual growth rate 0.61% (2003 est.). The languages are English and Patios, English and Jamaicans affiliate with most western religious faiths and practices including: Protestant 61.3%, Baptist 8.8%, Anglican 5.5%, Seventh-day Adventist 9%, Pentecostal 7.6%. Methodist 2.7%, United Church 2.7%, Brethren 1.1%, Jehovah’s Witness 1.6%, Moravian 1.1%, Roman Catholic 4% and other, including some spiritual cults 3.47%. Jamaicans have attained a life expectancy of 75.85 years (total population) and a literacy rate 87.9% (school attendance is mandatory up to age 12). School attendance by children between the ages of 6 and 11 is nearly universal, and 70.9% of all 12 to 18 years-olds attend secondary institutions. A major institution of higher learning for the entire Caribbean region is the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus (1948), located in Kingston, it has more than 5,000 students and a library with more than 450,000 volumes. Jamaica also has a number of vocational and technical schools, teacher-training colleges, and a college of arts, science, and technology.

The American economy is a free market system (protectionism contributed to the 1930 Great Depression and henceforth they practiced and became advocates for the free market system) that constantly evolves because of the decisions that millions of the citizens constantly operate in multiple roles as producers, consumers and investors. The United States is often called a mixed economy because even though the majority of productive resources are privately owned, the federal government does play an important role in the marketplace. With less than 5% of the world’s population in 1990 the United States produced 25% of the world’s output. The United States economy is more than twice as large as that of the second largest economy in the world, that of Japan. The federal government has and continues to invest in highways, bridges, canals, roads, schools and social programs like welfare and in 1935 enacted the Social Security program to ensure that retired Americans would have a monthly income and other social programs that give the elderly assistance when medicine has to be purchased.

The economy of Jamaica has also undergone changes over time, losing the prominence in the eyes of the world that the nation held during the early years of British rule when its sugar crop caused it to be a prized possession during a 150 years period. Today the economy is sluggish with a 15.5% high rate of unemployment and the primary export product bauxite and components manufactured through the bauxite-alumina industry have not pulled the economy out of its side-ways and downward drift. After the discovery of bauxite in the early 1940’s Jamaica began the transformation of its economy from being only an exporter of sugar and bananas to one that also exports bauxite minerals and has a tourism industry, garments manufacturing and finance sector. However, despite the expansion to the base of its economy in an effort to attract foreign currency and likewise foreign investments, which resulted in total exports of $1.7 billion in 2002 (US 35.7%, EU-excluding UK-4.7%, CARICOM countries 12.4%, and Latin America, its primary trading partner. In 2002 more than 50% of Jamaica’s import, representing $1.49 billion came from the Untied States of America. With dual circumstances of the island being heavily dependent upon imports and the devaluation of its currency, the increased cost of imported goods has been passed-on to the citizens. The net effect is that the local economy is now much more under the control of foreigners through the mechanism of debt.

In the 1970s, Jamaica owed US$800 million, 1980s US $4 billion and presently Jamaica owes US$7 billion and the capacity to export is steadily decreasing. Social problems resulting form an economy of negative growth for several years have taken a toll Jamaica owes US$7 billion and the capacity to export is steadily decreasing. Social problems resulting from an economy of negative growth for several years have taken a toll. Jamaica has one of the widest income differentials in the world between executives and the lowest level worker, with executives earning close to 100 times the salary of the lowest worker. While most workers earn more than the minimum wage of US$30.00 per week, the income of the middle and working class Jamaican is amongst the lowest in the region. This helps to explain why Jamaica has a high rate of migration to other professionals. The American cities Miami, New York and Chicago have large Jamaican populations and Ontario, Canada also has a sizeable Jamaican population. Some statistics place the migration figure at –6.65 migrant/1000 population (2002 est.).

Jamaica has numerous incidents of politically motivated violent acts and killings in its past. Theo political landscape is dominated by two major parties, The Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP). New parties frequently emerge, such as The New Beginning Movement founded in 1992 against a background of widespread disillusionment with the two major parties and politics in general but whose initial drive soon fizzled out. No independent candidate has ever been elected. Not until 2001 did either party enjoyed more than two successive terms in office. The Jamaican Labour Party was formed in 1943 under the leadership of the late William Alexander Bustamante, a businessman and labour leader, and now a National Hero. It is considered the more conservative and consistent party and has always espoused the free market system. During the 1970s and 80s it was vehemently anti-communist and pro-U.S.A. The People’s National Party was formed in 1938 and Norman Washington Manley, a barrister, emerged as leader soon afterwards. The PNP formed the government from 1955-1962 and again 1972-1980. The leader then, Michael Manley espoused “democratic socialism” and moved to align Jamaica closely with Fidel Castro, dictator over Cuba. The last election held in October 2002 returned 34 PNP and 26 JLP members to the House. However, the PNP is now under the leadership of P.J Patterson who espouses the free market system. The Jamaican model of government is built on that of Britain. The Queen of England is also regarded as the Queen of Jamaica and represented by a Governor General, whose duties just like those of British sovereign are largely ceremonial. Political power lays with the Jamaican parliament, which consists of a House of elected members representing 60 constituencies and a Senate of 21 members, fourteen of them nominated by the Prime Minister and 8 by the Leader of the Opposition. Before independence the British had divided the island into parishes for administrative purposes. This system remains and today there are 13 parishes. An elected Parish Council is responsible for the oversight of local government services (water, supply, road services, fire brigade, health services, etc.) Positions on the Parish Council are fiercely contested by the political parties as they see it as a means to influence what happens at the ground level in the communities. The Jamaican Constitution is currently under review by a Constitutional Commission with the view of creating a republic and replacing the Queen as head of state with a President. The major disadvantage of this model of governance is the amount of authority vested in the office of Prime Minister, who although he is said to be only the first among equals, actually personally wields almost dictatorial powers. Whomever he appoints to the Cabinet is automatically assigned. There is no process for scrutiny and no one else has powers to even stall such appointments. Then there is the power to hire, cause to resign or fire any Cabinet member without accountability. One can imagine that such does not allow for internal dissension even when it is warranted. Caribbean countries with this model of governance are well known for being generally inefficient. The power to call elections rest with the Prime Minister and there is no recall system under this system. The Judical system is overseen by a Cabinet appointed Minister of Justice (Attorney General ) on one side and a Prime Minister led nominated Chief Justice of The Supreme Court and likewise leader over The Court of Appeal. The Privy Council of London, England , still serves as the final court. In essence, placing absolute authority over Jamaican legal matters into the hands of those whom they once declared that they are independent from. This cannot nor does it produce a sense of pride and projects the country as one that mistrust the competence or intergrity of its own system of justice.

The United States of America has a republic platform as its model for governance. The office of The President is the highest office in the republic and the President is both Head of the Union and Head of the Military. The United States of America has a two party system that ahs endured over the years and the formation of third parties and independent candidates have not impacted the two party systems in significant way. The Republican Party was founded in 1854 and is the more conservative. It is widely believed to be supported by the affluent and wealthy. The democractic party traces its origin to the third President, Andrew Jackson, and is believed to be broadly supported by the ordinary worker and minorities. The Constitution of the United States assures that the citizens are given the right to vote for a candidate of their choice (each adult 18 years of age and above is allowed to vote and the democratic principle of one vote per person is strictly applied) form amongst those who offer themselves for the office of President. However, the candidates must first undergo a process towards selection. This process begins each party’s convention, usually held during the summer of an election year. Each state places the name of a candidate in nomination or yields to another during this process. The voting process begins immediately following this process until a simple majority in favor of one candidate is produced.

The candidate who offers for the office of Vice-President undergoes the same process. There are safeguards in place to ensure that the President and Vice-President come from different states. The next step is to nominate electors from each state, these persons are to represent their states and do so according to the laws of their state. Nominees cannot be federal office holders. Each state has as many electors as it has Senators and Representatives and the number of senators and representatives is determined by the size of each states population (only The District of Columbia is exceptional in this regard). Elector’s votes are sent to The Congress after being certified by the states, and after the ballots are counted the candidate with the highest total is declared to be The President. This process along with the popular vote figures is how USA selects its leader. The United States also has a robust check and balance element in its method of governance, which allows The Senate power (Constitutionally) to impeach The President if ethical standards are breached (Richard Nixon resigned form the office of President after breaching ethical standards). Senators are also elected and unlike in a Parliamentary Democracy like Jamaica where they are appointed by either The Prime Minister or Leader of The Opposition and are therefore expected to be “rubber stamps”, are free to speak and vote according to conscience and by the guidance of their supporters. The Congress is also selected by voting and therefore the legislative dimensions of the entire government have another layer and safeguard against undue intimidation and manipulation. The judiciary is completely independent from the legislative body and candidates to Federal and The Supreme Courts undergo a process of scrutiny before The Senate, which has the power to reject them (unlike in Jamaica where no such scrutiny exist). The Justices of The Supreme Court have security of office for life unless ethical standards are breached. The Supreme Court ahs absolute power to decide on every legal matter that arises and is the final court. Within each state local district have mayors and county workers who participate in the overall governance of the country by making local decisions on economic matters and legislative matters daily.

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