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Chinese-speaking Jamaicans crucial to economic future

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WE note with interest that a group of young Jamaicans have accepted scholarships to study in China. They, like their predecessors who studied in the Soviet Union and Cuba, will return with university level training as well as knowledge of the culture and language of their host country. The latter, we are sure, will make them ideally suited for the future, which many are predicting will be a Chinese-dominated era.

Part of the difficulty that the Jamaican economy is experiencing with recovering from the ravages of the global economic recession is that it is closely integrated with the United States and the European Union. Their very slow and tentative resumption of economic growth adversely affects Jamaica through lower tourist arrivals and expenditure, lower export demand, notably in bauxite/alumina and lower remittances.

The global recovery in the world economy is highly uneven, reflecting increased differences in the international pattern of economic growth and is a departure from the expansion of the world economy driven by the North Atlantic economies.

There has been a surge in growth in China, India, Brazil, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore. Most developed economies are still suffering from anaemic growth rates, expanded public debt and the threat of a "double dip" recovery from recession, despite stimulus packages.

Meanwhile, in those economies disparagingly referred to as "emerging markets", economic growth was maintained despite the global economic crisis and in several cases now exceeds pre-crisis levels.

There has been a tectonic shift in the global economy towards a multi-polar economic system. Jamaica has been far too slow to develop linkages with the new growth poles of a global economy whose centre of gravity has shifted to Asia, in particular China.

Similarly, links to large developing countries — in particular Brazil, India and Korea — are minimal, especially compared to traditional economic partners in the western world. This ossification of international economic relations is clearly evident in tourist arrivals, foreign capital inflows and imports.

The most recent World Economic Outlook by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that the nascent recovery in the world economy is proceeding at varying speeds. Robust recovery is evident in many emerging countries, especially in Asia, while the developed world is still stymied by conflicting impulses.

After a global decline of 0.5 per cent in economic activity in 2009, the IMF forecasts global growth for 2010 to be 4.25 per cent, with approximately two per cent average growth in the developed countries and over six per cent average growth in emerging and developing economies.

This trend is projected to hold in 2011, but the fact that economic activity is still heavily dependent on macro-economic stimulus policies is a cause for caution. This is especially true of countries where the prudent limits of expansionary fiscal policies have been breached without resuscitating self-sustaining growth, leaving these economies vulnerable to new shocks.

The lesson to be drawn from these trends is that Jamaica needs to reposition itself in the global economy by diversifying its international economic relations.

Mandarin-speaking Jamaicans will be important interlocutors.

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