The Caribbean Mecca is under siege with gun violence.  Jamaica, one of the most appealing tourist attractions in the world has accumulated over a thousand homicides in 2017, due to gun violence. (Caribbean News Services).  There is certainly trouble in paradise, and the contributions generated by tourism plays no part in presenting solutions to the violence occurring on the island. In this short article, I will identify the issues under-developing Jamaica.

Some of the most vital issues plaguing Jamaica are high unemployment rates, poverty, education, and physical health.  Among other issues, I believe these particular issues are attributing to the high rate of gang participation and gun violence amongst Jamaican youth.  In 2016, Jamaica had 1,350 murders and a homicide rate of 50 murders per 100,000 residents (Jamaica News Services, 2017) which surpasses Chiraq (Chicago). (JNS).  In 2017, things have gotten worst for the Caribbean island as Jamaica has nearly surpassed last years murders with over 1,225 from January 1 to November 1.  Given the rate of murders, Jamaica has a real possibility of at least  matching the number of murders in 2016. Majority of the murders are attributed to gang-related activity.  What is making young Black Jamaicans interested in gang affiliation?  I wish I knew the exact answer, but I believe some of the social issues mentioned earlier are contributing to the increased rate of violence in Jamaica.

Most gangs in Jamaica can make large profits transporting narcotics in and out of the island.  Gangs carry money; something many young Jamaican adults do not ever receive in large amounts.  The lack of economic development on the island effects the labor market.  High unemployment within any community has a strong correlation with crime and violence.  In 2015, Jamaica recorded an unemployment rate of 13.5 percent. (Statista, 2015)). Not only are the pockets of many young Jamaicans empty, but the minds of these young people are idle.  Thus, gang recruitment becomes easier to accomplish because young Jamaicans are not earning enough money to feed themselves or their families.  They are left in the streets with no income. A hungry man is an angry man.  Not one human being enjoys the inability to feed themselves.  An empty stomach may  encourage youth to engage in gang activity.

Education may be one of the more severe public policy issues in Jamaica.  The education system is identical to 3rd world standards.  There are essentially no rights to education past primary school.  Primary (or elementary) school is free, but Jamaican parents must pay for their children to attend secondary school.  Without money, a child’s education on the island can stop at age 11. (Education Policy and Data Center, 2014).  My Jamaican father was born in 1962, and the same rules and guidelines applied to him in 1973.  My grandmother had to work two jobs just to put him through secondary school.  She certainly did not have the money to send him to a university after he graduated from Kingston College at 18.  Many Jamaicans do not have the opportunity to attend higher education due to poverty.  Sure some undergraduate universities are financed by the government, but the government does not supply enough funding for every student interested in attending a university.  According to EPDC, more than ten percent of children do not transition from primary school to lower secondary school (ages 12-14).  This may seem like a small percentage, but more than 99 percent of students (ages 12-14) in various developed countries are in school.  Given the numbers, many Jamaican children could be left idle and uneducated.

The violence in Jamaica is instigated by males.  Jamaican males (age 15+) ranked in the lowest percentile compared to Latin American and Caribbean countries (EPDC).  It is safe to say an idle and uneducated mind can lead young boys to partake in gang-related activity, simply because the few jobs available on the island prefer literate workers.  I would assume most gang members would not score high on any literacy test, causing them to suffer the consequences of being uncompetitive in a subpar job market.  This may leave them with no other choice but to take the easy route and join gangs to earn any kind of cash.  What else do you expect young teenagers to do when the streets of Jamaica are short on jobs and flooded with automatic weapons and gangs.

Health concerns in Jamaica are steadily increasing.  The island certainly does not provide the best healthcare policy and is strikingly similar to the United States; the wealthy have private insurance while the poor are left with public healthcare.  There are approximately 30 to 40 hospitals in Jamaica. (Inter Nations).  Unfortunately, these public institutions are often overcrowded and unreliable.  Every parish (or state) contains at least one local hospital, but emergency care is only provided in Kingston and Montego Bay.  Given the violence, two emergency care hospitals does not give Jamaicans the opportunity to receive immediate care for severe injuries.  Another growing concern is obesity.  According to Balcostics Research, 60% of Jamaicans are overweight between ages 35-54; 70% of women in that same age group are overweight or obese.  This may be caused by a lack of proper nutrition, health education, and discipline.  I would presume most children to be ill-advised to what proper nutrition consist of.

I am excited about the potential opportunities that can be developed to improve some of the problems in Jamaica.  Some of these policy issues must be addressed to decrease the level of violence and murders in the Caribbean Mecca.

Healthcare in Jamaica. Inter Nations. 2017. https://www.internations.org/jamaica-expats/guide/living-in-jamaica-15737/healthcare-in-jamaica-3

Crime and Transportation in Jamaica. Inter Nations. 2017. https://www.internations.org/jamaica-expats/guide/living-in-jamaica-15737/crime-and-transportation-in-jamaica-2

Children in Jamaica. Humanium. 2017. https://www.humanium.org/en/jamaica/

Thomas, Luwayne. Jamaica’s Biggest Problems are Opportunities for Its Brightest Minds. Balcostics. 2013. https://balcostics.com/2013/08/30/jamaicas-biggest-problems-are-opportunities-for-its-best-minds/

CNS Editor. Jamaica- 2017 murders already surpass the figures for all of last year. Caribbean News Services. 2017. https://caribbeannewsservice.com/now/jamaica-2017-murders-already-surpass-the-figures-for-all-of-last-year/

Jamaica. Education Policy and Data Center. 2014. https://www.epdc.org/sites/default/files/documents/EPDC%20NEP_Jamaica.pdf

Jamaica: Unemployment Rate from 2012 to 2022. Statista. 2015. https://www.statista.com/statistics/527097/unemployment-rate-in-jamaica/