Agriculture, Trade, and Development in the International Political Economy: A Case Study of Jamaica

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2004-05-12

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This project hypothesizes that Jamaica should be more developed given its natural and human resource endowment. In light of Jamaica's agricultural underdevelopment, the project utilizes an agricultural framework to assess the processes by which politico-economic forces have shaped development in Jamaica and the larger Caribbean since independence. The project conjectures that both externally-driven and domestically-motivated forces have impeded Jamaica's development and investigates the extent to which these forces have forestalled national development. In so doing, the research tests the validity of the following competing theories of development for Jamaica: neoliberalism and dependencia.

The Jamaican experience is highlighted as a case study that is representative of and generalizable to the Caribbean at large. As the Caribbean country that is arguably the most structurally adjusted in the region, with significant ties to the United States, the Jamaican experience can be viewed in the (dominant) neoliberal paradigm as the "best case scenario" for development in the region, one that should have "made it." As Elsie Le Franc (1994) stated, "one can always identify 'winners' and 'losers' in any situation of change, but it is necessary to try to tackle that more difficult issue of whether or not any identifiable winners can function, and most important, expand in a market economy." The research therefore demonstrates how structural adjustment conditionalities; bilateral, regional, and multilateral trade realities; limited investment into local agriculture; and overall domestic apathy and lack of agricultural reform have played out in what has been argued to be a model case for socioeconomic expansion, and how they have shaped that country's development and options in our rapidly globalizing market economy. The project's research findings reveal the conception of development, neoliberal or dependency, that is more relevant to Jamaica's experience. Finally, recognizing that mainstream strategies of development have not eradicated the problems of Caribbean underdevelopment, the project proposes an alternate model of development that reflects the voice of all segments of society and has at its core a strong state that fosters technological innovation, encourages export diversification, and channels investment to improve Jamaica's production, productivity, and competitiveness in the international political economy.

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