The Top Local Jamaica News Stories of 2023

In 2023, Jamaica experienced its strongest earthquake in over 50 years. An extensive investigation of the investment firm, Stocks and Securities Limited rocked the financial sector as many investors, including Olympic champion Usain Bolt, were robbed of substantial amounts of money by a company employee. Jamaica’s Supreme Court issued a historic ruling that represented a reform of existing gang laws. While it was revealed that Jamaican politicians, Prime Minister Andrew Holness among them, will receive huge salary increases in 2024, hundreds of teachers in the country resigned, citing decreasing or stagnating salaries as a major reason.

The Top Local Jamaica News Stories of 2023

Usain Bolt Losses Million in Fund Fraud

Jamaica’s government announced that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would become increasingly involved in examining major fraud activities at the investment firm, Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL), according to Dr Nigel Clarke, Jamaican Minister of Finance. The fraudulent actions at SSL resulted in enormous financial losses to its investors, including Jamaican Olympic champion, Usain Bolt. The FBI’s investigation went beyond what had initially been proposed to discover details of the activity that had continued for over a decade, Clarke said. The government also hired a global forensics company to aid in the investigations.

Supreme Court’s Landmark Ruling

The Supreme Court of Jamaica issued a conviction in the case of Andre “Blackman” Bryan in a decision described as a “landmark” ruling, which represented a victory for the country’s reform of its anti-gang laws. Bryan, a well known crime boss, was found guilty of heading the One Don faction of the Klansman gang. The gang is known for persecuting a community outside of Jamaica’s capital of Kingston. Bryan was also found guilty of facilitating several murders. The ruling was viewed as a win for the government in its battle against crime and follows several judicial reforms designed to control rising gang violence.

Huge Salary Increases for Politicians

Politicians in Jamaica, including the Prime Minister, have received huge salary increases over a period of three years that ends in 2024. The raises, announced by Dr. Nigel Clarke, Minister of Finance and the Public Service, were included in the government’s restructuring of compensation for the public service sector. Prime Minister Andrew Holness will receive a salary of nearly $30 million by April 2025, and members of Parliament will receive just over $14 million by that date under the new structure. Local politicians will also receive raises, with the Mayor of Kingston to be paid $11.4 million in 2024, and the Mayor of Montego Bay receiving $10.3 million in the same year. Parish councilors will see their salaries increase from $1.6 million in 2021 to $5.7 million in 2024. Other civil servants, including police, teachers, nurses, and physicians, also benefited from salary increases, with some in senior leadership positions seeing their salaries triple. Clarke said the raises are necessary to attract and retain the best leaders to the public sector.

Many Teachers Resign as New School Year Begins

Jamaica’s Minister of Education Fayval Williams  revealed that an additional 400 teachers resigned since she received her last update on August 18, 2023, just as the school year begins on September 4, 2023. The resignations are part of an exodus of teachers from Jamaica that began in 2021 as they seek higher paying positions in the United States, Canada, and Britain, which have stepped up their recruitment of foreign educators to address serious staff shortages. In 2022, over 1,500 teachers left their jobs, and while the numbers declined in 2023 when only 427 teachers announced plans to resign from the beginning of the year through mid-August, 400 more teachers submitted resignations just before classes were scheduled to start in September. This meant that Jamaica had lost approximately 10 percent of its teachers in a two-year period. Williams tried to allay concerns by noting that 25,000 teachers are still working in Jamaica’s schools and that hundreds had completed their training and were ready to enter the workforce.

Jamaica Experiences Largest Earthquake in More than 50 Years

On October 30, 2023, Jamaica recorded an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.6. It was followed by an eight-hour period marked by some 70 aftershocks. The quake’s epicenter was about 10 kilometers south of Buff Bay in Portland Parish, but it was felt throughout the island, in the Bahamas, the Caymans, Haiti, Cuba, and United States Minor Outlying Islands. According to Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie, the significant earthquake was the largest Jamaica has experienced in more than 50 years. While the quake was measured at 5.6 on the Richter Scale, it had a maximum intensity of 7, he added. Despite its strength, the quake caused minimal damage and no reported loss of life. Quakes described as aftershocks of the October 30 event were felt in November.

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