Jamaica’s central bank believes the country’s economy is doing very well and uses an instantly recognizable symbol of the island to get this message across to the people: reggae music.
In the Bank’s latest video, reggae artist Tarrus Riley uses his husky voice to tout low, stable, and predictable inflation as the bassline of reggae music. âGive me a drop, let the bassline roll and kotch, reggae music rule the country,â Riley sings.
This video and other videos produced by the Bank of Jamaica have gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of views around the world.
âThe idea is to communicate in the best possible way, and in Jamaica nothing helps communication as much as music,â said Nigel Clarke, Minister of Finance and Civil Service, in an interview in his office overlooking the Port of Kingston. âMusic helps advocacy, and so does complex monetary policy. “
Just over seven years ago, government debt was close to 150% of the country’s GDP, unemployment exceeded 15%, and economic growth was just under 1% per year. Now the debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to fall below 100% in this year’s budget, more people are employed than at any time in the country’s history, with an unemployment rate of 8%, and it there have been 18 consecutive quarters of growth.
âIn the context of Jamaican history, superlatives are appropriate,â Clarke said. “This is, in my opinion, a remarkable achievement of the Jamaican people.”
But the fruits of the recovery are still slow to reach many Jamaicans, and many people have doubts. So the Bank of Jamaica decided to use reggae to get the government’s message across that the country is experiencing an economic recovery.
Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah, director of the Institute for Caribbean Studies at the University of the West Indies, said music is a natural way to reach Jamaicans.
âIt’s a no-brainer, using culture to educate and entertain simultaneously – or ‘edutain’. In this case, we are talking about a context in which music is embedded in the DNA of the people,â Niaah said.
Damien King, professor at the University of the West Indies and executive director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, said: âThis is, at this point, potentially the greatest story ever told.
According to King, Jamaica was among the worst performing economies in the world. It was plagued by low productivity, long-term stagnation and crippling debt. Now the government has drastically changed the economy, he said, but people have yet to be convinced that taking a little pain to achieve overall economic growth is worth it.
One of the pillars of the economic recovery has moved away from the exchange rate as the primary tool of monetary policy towards an inflation target of between 4% and 6%, Clarke said.
Previously, the central bank focused on using exchange rate adjustments to keep the prices of goods and services neither too low nor too high, but this resulted in fluctuations that made it difficult for businesses to plan. The bank is now making monetary decisions based on inflation, seeking a moderate but steady rise in prices. The current 2% rate remains below target, and the bank says this signals weakness in the economy.
Stable, predictable inflation helps people plan and budget, said Peter Blair Henry, Jamaican-born Dean Emeritus of the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University.
âIt affects the market lady who is trying to sell fruits and vegetables, and if the price of fuel goes up, she wants to know how much. If it rises too quickly, it costs more to bring the fruits and vegetables to the market. He said.
As things improve, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Mark Golding, opposition member of parliament and shadow finance spokesman, said that while Jamaica’s economic recovery cannot be denied, there are still areas for improvement. âIt’s a very big turnaround, but the growth levels are not where we would like to see them,â he said.
Jamaican economist Dennis Jones said there are obstacles that must be removed in order to meet the goals. âWe always seem to languish in the one to two percent range, and that’s not a rate that’s going to do much for us as a society,â Jones said, citing crime and aging infrastructure as hurdles.
In poor communities, skepticism reigns about the recovery.
“I realize that sometimes these things are superficial,” said Luke-George Cooke, a laborer in the Trench Town district of the capital. âA woman shouldn’t have to stab a woman over a $ 2 lash. And in downtown Kingston, we see more and more people in difficulty. I don’t see in the downtown community where people are improving their homes.