Crime takes toll on Jamaican economy

Jamaica’s Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting, says that his country has paid a high cost for crime, stating that the economy would have been between three and 10 times its current size had it not been for the “exceptionally high levels of crime” in the last four decades.

In delivering the third lecture in the Jamaica 50 lecture series under the theme, “National Security in Jamaica since Independence” at the Silver Spring Civic Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, Bunting said crime has affected Jamaica’s competiveness, “as we have been falling in terms of the world economic forum competitiveness index, and it affects investor confidence.”

As a result of economic constraints, the senior minister said there have not been sufficient funds to spend on social services and to combat crime.

Another challenge is the globalization and technological advances that have assisted legitimate commerce, but which has also assisted in criminal and illegitimate commerce, according to a Jamaica government statement issued in New York.

“We are a transitioning society; and, in many ways, we look at the first world to be our examples and benchmark in terms of human rights,” Bunting said.

Consequently, he said the police are under pressure to keep crime under control.

But he noted that, at the same time, “we should bear in mind that we are policing in a completely different environment than in the first world.”

The national security minister said that, over the last few years, Jamaica has made major strides in reducing the flow of drugs in the island.

He said that, in 2001, an estimated 21 percent of cocaine that ended up in the U.S. market came through the Caribbean.

A year later, that percentage was down to about five percent, with Jamaica only accounting for about one of that five percent, Bunting said.

He said the growth of gangs and organized criminal organizations have resulted from many decades of being a major transit country.

Bunting said one of his goals is to reduce crime to first world levels by 2017, from 40 in 100,000 to 12 in 100,000.

“If this is to be attained, we have to do things radically, we can’t get there incrementally,” he said, stating that the Portia Simpson Miller administration plans to increase the number of police and military personnel by 5,000 over the next four to five years and to add 500 new motor vehicles in the system over the same period.

Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington and Director Public Prosecution Paul Llewellyn attended the lecture series, which was the brain-child of Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Stephen Vasciannie.

The government statement indicates that Ellington and Llewellyn along with Bunting and Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, were visiting the Washington area to participate in an Inter-American Dialogue on the lotto scam issue and measures being undertaken by Jamaica to address the scourge.

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