Mismanagement was the term used by some to characterise Michael Manley’s handling of the economy during his tenure as prime minister leading up to the 1980 general election. Capital flight had bankrupted Jamaica, which had no foreign exchange reserves by 1980 and zero dollars to pay its import bill. On the other hand, Edward Seaga, who succeeded Manley in 1980, was lauded for his acute business acumen.
Seaga’s economic austerity programme, including a painful public sector reform – terms dictated by the International Monetary Fund – made his government very unpopular and they were soon booted from office.
Jamaica would go into worsening indebtedness, which cast its long shadow over the economy, especially throughout the late ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
Dr Nigel Clarke, the current custodian of the country’s economic apparatus, said, “The economic preoccupation of the 1980s was centred around recovery from the destabilising effects of the flight of capital and skills of the previous five years. There were no foreign currency reserves in the central bank in 1980 and our reputation with international creditors was in tatters. We are in an entirely different time now, and that’s a good thing.”