Jamaica Year in Review 2013

Jamaica’s 2013 political news included the story of Andrew Holness and how he survived a challenge to his leadership of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) from former colleague Audley Shaw. Other major political stories were the resignation of Arthur Williams from Jamaica’s Senate after Andrew Holness asked that all Opposition senators sign undated letters of resignation because of concerns about their positions on the Caribbean Court of Justice. Williams resigned because of his belief that this action went against every constitutional principle. Another political story of note was the dramatic comeback of Richard Azan, Member of Parliament, after his resignation in response to the public pressure arising from questions about his involvement in the construction of shops at the Spalding Market. He was re-instated as the junior minister in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing following a ruling by Paula Llewellyn, the Director of Public Prosecutors (DPP) that he did not face criminal charges in the Spalding Market matter.

Jamaica entered into several international trade agreements in 2013. Four agreements made with China provided for billions of dollars in grants and loans for the development of infrastructure on the island. These agreements were made during a trip to China by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to solidify the growing ties between the two countries. The agreements included a preferential loan with China Exim Bank for a three-year development program, a $1.6 million grant marked for use on project to be agreed upon by nations, the construction and design of the Tower Hill Infant School in Kingston and Morant Estate Infant School in St Thomas. and technical aid to help Jamaica perform a feasibility study concerning a teaching building at the Confucius Institute on the Mona Campus, University of the West Indies.

Jamaica also made several agreements with countries in the Caribbean region to facilitate trade and freedom of movement for citizens. The agreement between Jamaica and Trinidad outlined steps to be taken to improve free trade and free movement between these countries. A free trade agreement with Costa Rica was also implemented in 2013, nine years after it was signed with CARICOM. Similar agreements were made the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica facilitated a trade agreement between CARICOM and Cuba.

Jamaica’s relationship with CARICOM nations was not always positive in 2013. A ruling from the Caribbean Court of Justice found that immigration authorities in Barbados breached the rights of Shanique Myrie in 2011 when they denied her entry to the country and subjected her to humiliating treatment. The ruling was a test of the ability of CARICOM citizens to move freely throughout the region. The court found that CARICOM nationals have the right under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to enter member countries “without harassment or the imposition of impediment” and to stay up to six months. Statistics provided by immigration officials in Barbados showed that Jamaicans and Guyanese citizens represented most of the CARICOM nationals who were refused entry to Barbados since 2008.

Jamaican nationals were also denied entry to Trinidad and Tobago in violation of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, according to the Caribbean Court of Justice. Immigration officers in Trinidad prohibited 13 Jamaicans from entering the country in November, confiscating their passports and detaining them overnight before sending them back to Jamaica.

Jamaican passed a number of new laws in 2013, several of which are designed to enhance the security and economic condition of the country. Forty pieces of legislation were enacted, including the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act 2013, which addresses lottery scams; laws against human trafficking; and the Defamation Act that encourages rapid resolution of disputes involving the publication of allegedly defamatory matter through non-litigious methods. The government also gave consideration to the legalization of ganja on the island in the wake of its legalization in several jurisdictions in the United States in 2013.

Financial institutions in Jamaica prepared themselves for new laws introduced under agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to meet the requirements imposed by that agency to help Jamaica emerge from its poor economic situation. These laws include the Security Interests Personal Property Act, the Insolvency Act, the Modernization of Electric Lighting Act, the Tax Administration Jamaica Act, the Tax Collection Amendment Act, the Revenue Administration Act, the Charitable Organizations Act, and the Charities Act.

Jamaica signed the External Fund Facility (EFF) with the IMF, a four-year, US$958 million agreement, which was characterized by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller as an ambitions and far-reaching program to provide the nation with an economic transformation.

The IMF noted that Jamaica has come a long way toward achieving economic stability in spite of the global economic crisis of the past several years and its large debt load. These laws are designed to attract foreign investors and to present Jamaica as a place of acceptable risk for investment. Other changes to Jamaica’s tax regime were also designed and implemented to facilitate the nation’s economic recovery under IMF agreements.

There was activity on Jamaica’s social welfare and human rights fronts during 2013 as well. The nation passed a ban on smoking in public areas, joining other CARICOM countries in this regard. Jamaica received high praise from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) for its new non-smoking regulations. The law prohibits smoking in enclosed workplaces and public places and requires health warnings to be displayed on 75 percent of the main packaging of a pack of cigarettes.

Jamaican Diaspora

Jamaicans in the Diaspora held their fifth biennial conference held in Montego Bay in 2013, focusing on encouraging Jamaicans who live overseas to make investments in the home country. Attendees at the conference were presented with and discussed various opportunities to increase business investment and trade with their home country. The conference also encouraged social investments in areas like health care and education.

Jamaican American Congresswoman Yvette Clarke asked the President of the United States Barack Obama to stop deporting Jamaicans and other Caribbean immigrants who did not have legal status in the U.S. Clarke, whose parents are Jamaican immigrants and who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, appealed to the President to prevent the continuing separation of families in the community. She was highly critical of what she called a “failed” immigration system that cannot go on as usual and called for legislative reforms.

Olive Wilhelmina Mahoney Lewin, a Jamaican folk music pioneer, performer, educator, and researcher, was honored for her contributions posthumously at the National Honors ceremony. Lewin received the Order of Merit (OM), Jamaica’s third-highest honor. Born in Clarendon, she was a fellow of London’s Trinity College and an associate at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal School of Music. She had also received honors from the United Nations, Organization of American states, and the government of France for her contribution to the arts. She died in August 2013 at the age of 85.


Several Caribbean nationals in New York sought re-election to represent a number of predominantly Caribbean districts in the region. Caribbean nationals were also instrumental in electing New York City’s first Democratic mayor in 12 years. Dr. Mathieu Eugene of Haiti and Grenadian American Jumaane Williams ran for office in 2013.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia experienced serious damage and several deaths due to a storm that brought heavy rains and winds to the islands. According to Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent, the nations would need millions of dollars in reconstruction monies.

The Caribbean Court of Justice, which is based in Trinidad, issued rulings that attempted to retain the free movement of CARICOM citizens to other member nations. Difficulties arose for Caribbean nationals in their regional travels in 2013. While the court upheld the principle of free movement in the case of Shanique Myrie, only two months later, 13 Jamaican nationals were deported from Trinidad and Tobago. This led to calls for an economic boycott of Trinidad by Jamaica, which required intervention by the foreign ministers of both nations.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic discussed ways to resolve the tensions arising between the two countries that were indicated in a ruling from the Constitutional Court that threatened to take away citizenship from people of Haitian descent who were born in the Dominican Republic. In addition to revoking the citizenship of people of Haitian descent, these individuals could then be sent to Haiti despite not being born there. The government of Haiti asked for measures that would protect the basic rights of these people. The actions of the Dominican Republic brought condemnation from regional and international sources and led to the consideration of that nation for membership in CARICOM to be put on hold.

Fourteen Caribbean nations sued Britain, France, and the Netherlands for reparations due to the roles of these countries in the Atlantic slave trade. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, addressed the United Nations Assembly and said these European countries must pay for their actions and repair the legacy of slavery so that the region can move forward developmentally. Lawsuits brought by CARICOM will be heard by the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The death of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, brought economic uncertainty to 17 nations in the Caribbean. Twelve CARICOM member nations have become dependent on supplies of oil from Venezuela, and without the oil from PetroCaribe, difficulties for these countries were feared. Under the government of Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro, preferential interest rates previously charged to PetroCaribe countries were increased by 50 percent in some cases. The Maduro administration held meetings with some partners to negotiate increases ranging from one percent to four percent.

Soca artiste Bunji Garlin (Ian Alvarez), a native of Trinidad, tied for Song of the Year award at the United States-based MTV  IGGY Song of the Year competition. His track “Differentology” was awarded the honor for 2013, tying in the voting with a song by a Korean rapper. Garlin thanked fans in the Caribbean and around the world, but also suggested that social media sites contained racist slurs during the voting period that saddened him. He condemned the comments, noting the Caribbean includes people of all races and colors, and hoped the world could learn from the region.

The year in business was marked by expansion into new areas of revenue for Jamaica. Included in these was an increased focus on encouraging local utilization of domestically produced agricultural and other products. Renowned scientist Dr. Henry Lowe launched a new diabetes drug and continued his work developing and promoting the benefits of Jamaica’s indigenous plants. In December, he started the first medical marijuana company MediCanja in Kingston. He expects Jamaica to take advantage of the multibillion-dollar medicinal ganja industry that is unfolding throughout the world. Lowe noted that Jamaica is the first country to develop a commercial product from ganja, Canasol, which is used to treat glaucoma.

Jamaican began a pilot project in partnership with Nippon Light Metal Company of Japan to determine the economic feasibility of mining rare earth elements on the island. The project involves extracting these elements from bauxite waste. About 33 tons of dry red mud from the mining areas will be processed to evaluate its commercial potential. Rare earths are used in high-tech products like smartphones and computers and represent a potentially lucrative source of revenues for Jamaica.

Jamaica also entered into plans with Chinese investors to create a logistics hub in Jamaica. The project would mean a multi-billion dollar investment from China’s Harbor Engineering Company. The plans raised concern about the environmental impact of construction on Jamaica’s Goat Island, the company’s first choice of location, however, with Opposition Spokesman Andrew Holness questioning the interests of the Chinese. Opposition Spokesman on Industry, Investment, Mining and Energy Karl Samuda warned that any delays on the projected agreement could prompt investors to look elsewhere to establish the hub. Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller also warned against delays in deciding upon the hub’s location, concerned that Jamaica could lose out on an “economic game changer” for the country.

Timar Jackson, Rhodes Scholar, represents the future of Jamaica. He finished his degree in Actuarial Science and currently works at Sagicor Life Jamaica as an actuarial analyst. He is planning to take the exams required to become an Associate of the Society of Actuaries. He received the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Academics in 2012.

Science and Technology

There was a greater focus on climate change and the environmental impact of human activity on Jamaica’s natural resources. A Caribbean Summit of Political and Business Leaders was held to address the environmental challenges in the region. The second phase of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative was launched. Its objective is to protect a significant percentage of the area’s marine and coastal resources by 2020.

Advances were made in improving bandwidth for telecommunications in the Caribbean, as evidenced by several joint ventures. One of these was created between Cable and Wireless Communications and Columbus Networks of the Caribbean. An undersea fiber optic cable connection between Jamaica and Cuba was activated, providing additional bandwidth for communications in Cuba through Cable and Wireless Jamaica. LIME Jamaica experienced significant growth in revenues from mobile communications subscribers on the island in 2013.

The region’s growing energy needs were addressed in innovative and constructive ways in 2013. For example, six geothermal energy sites are under consideration for pilot projects that involved tapping into heat beneath the ground in Jamaica and use it for energy for the first time.

Environmental concerns included the dying off of Caribbean coral, the proliferation of lionfish and the damage caused to native marine populations by the voracious predator and the loss of coastal areas from storms and human activity.

Arts and Entertainment

It would be difficult to find a bigger entertainment story for 2013 than that of Jamaican singer Tessanne Chin, who won the singing competition on the American television program “The Voice.” Support for Tessanne among Jamaicans both at home and in the Diaspora grew exponentially every week as the singer advanced to each new level in the competition. Her ultimate victory over the other contestants provided a major source of national pride for all Jamaicans.

Another important development in the arts in Jamaica is the growing importance of the film and animation industry. Jamaican films received considerable attention at several major film festivals throughout the world in 2013. Particularly notable were the Toronto Film Festival, which offered the world premiere of “Kingston Paradise,” a film by Mary Wells, a Jamaican filmmaker, and the Reggae Film Festival in Ocho Rios, which featured the tribute film “Bob Marley: Making of a Legend.”

Jamaica’s film industry continues to be best known for “The Harder They Come” from 1972, but a new film by Storm Saulter, “Better Mus’ Come,” looks at the same decade in Jamaica when gang warfare and political violence exploded throughout the island. The debut of this director was lauded at a number of festivals for its attention to cultural details, as well as its outstanding acting.

The Cartoon Network showed its first Jamaican cartoon in August 2013. The cartoon “Santino” was a milestone for Andrew Lee Pryce of Real Entertainment Productions, as the first full-length island cartoon.

In music, some criticism was leveled at local DJs for not giving enough attention to Jamaica’s own music, which sometimes appears to critics as being valued more overseas than in its own country. However, 2013 also saw a growing focus on folk culture in Jamaica, with a variety of books and live performances showcasing the island’s rich heritage.

The story of sports for 2013 was again dominated by Jamaica’s outstanding track and field athletes, headed by the achievements of Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce. Both these athletes turned in amazing performances at the Moscow World Championships in 2013; both were named World Athletes of the Year.

Bolt, who was also named Athlete of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012, won ten of his 11 100-meter races in 2013. He won the 200-meters at the IAAF World Championships and won the final with a time of 19:66 seconds. He was undefeated in his five races over 200 meters.
Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce regained her 100-meter title at the IAAF World Championships with a time of 10:71 seconds, the fastest time of the year. She also won gold in the 200-meters and the 4×100-meter relay. She continued to run well throughout the year and achieved a win in 10.92 seconds in the 100-meters at the IAAF Diamond League in Paris. She ended the season with a win in the 200-meters at the IAAF Diamond League Final in Zurich, achieving 22.40, and a win in the 100-meters in Brussels with a time of 10.72.
The other big sports story of 2013 was the shocking doping scandal that involved several top Jamaican athletes, including Veronica Campbell-Brown, Asafa Powell, and Sherone Simpson. Six athletes had positive tests for prohibited substances during 2013. Dr. Paul Wright, Jamaica’s senior drug tester, called the results the “tip of the iceberg,” while Renee Anne Shirley, former head, of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) alleged that the organization performed only one out-of-competition test in the six months before the London 2012 Olympics.

As a result of the doping scandal, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigated Jamaica’s doping regime to determine whether adequate testing was being performed. The president of WADA said Jamaican athletes could be banned from future competitions if JADCO did not improve its drug-testing program. The entire board of JADCO resigned in response to the scandal.

In August 2013, WADA stated that it would help Jamaica resolve its problems and called for action on the issues raised by Shirley about flaws in the program. Herb Elliott, chairman of JADCO, maintained that Jamaica’s drug-testing procedures met international standards.


About the author

Stephanie Korney