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Norris McDonald | Foreign debt, poverty, crime, and the nation-builder JDF

Published:Wednesday | September 20, 2023 | 12:06 AM
Over the years, members of the JDF have engaged in several nation building and community development projects.
Over the years, members of the JDF have engaged in several nation building and community development projects.
Norris McDonald
Norris McDonald

“The JDF assisted in national water-supply development projects in Jamaica from 1983-85 with the construction of a major water pipeline from Yallahs … to the Mona Reservoir in St Andrew” – JDF historical accomplishments

Crime and violence in Jamaica is getting worse and, so far, no solutions from government have worked. Not even the continued use of states of public emergencies (SOEs) has helped to seriously dent the crime problem, bringing safety and peace of mind to people.

Eight out of 10 persons believe that a new approach is needed. “Close police-community relations are needed to help reduce crime,” a recent Gleaner report stated.

“Crime-fatigued residents” who spoke to The Gleaner also questioned “the effectiveness of the states of emergencies”.

This protracted use of the SOE has had some successes, but overall, it is as if the country is in a permanent state of siege.

This is clearly unfortunate. The nation appears to be under siege from criminals. But people in their communities don’t want to appear to be under siege from law enforcement.

This is truly a complex issue.

How can the country bring peace of mind to its citizens who wake up every day to hear that some new terrible events have occurred?


The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has been used for many years to help implement the SOEs, but it appears that the crime problem keeps getting worse.

My friends, despite the crime and violence, do we really need, and can we afford to have, a standing army, in a poor nation without external foreign threats and, therefore, must have continuous war preparation?

Why not get the JDF involved in community development work. This would certainly help to build better community relations with law enforcement that people are seeking.

Since work is being done on constitutional reform, wouldn’t it be useful too – if needs be – to fully create a new Jamaica Development Force?

This new JDF, as a matter of law, would be given economic reconstruction tasks.

JDF has great engineers and fine managerial skills that are not properly utilised. They could help with:

• Building roads, schools, rural clinics, hospitals.

• Sport field construction and community development.

• Urban and rural community development projects, including building micro dams and drainage construction.

• Upgrading the many parochial, local, rural feeder roads. The country would then have more to gain from JDF’s community development.

Given these changes, based on a new mindset, it would do away with the traditional idea of having a standing army that is not being properly utilised.

The JDF, on its website, give proud examples some of what I am saying. Among the many historic accomplishments, we find that they have:

• Participated in national water-supply development projects in Jamaica from 1983-85 with the construction of a major water pipeline from Yallahs, St Thomas, to the Mona Reservoir in St Andrew.

• Repaired 55 kilometres of road in several Jamaican parishes.

• Deployed several units to help with the disastrous 1979 New Market and Western Jamaica floods.

• Helped with other major disaster work in Jamaica and the Caribbean.


There you go, my friends!

Why is it that soldiers are only seen in a crime-fighting role when they can function as true nation-builders?

Why then are we just limiting the JDF to ‘muttyfooting’ on with SOE issues when they can play a more invaluable role as nation-builders?

I believe we ought to increase the pay of our soldiers and change their mission to make them function as the true pioneering nation-builders that they are.

In the meantime, the Jamaica Mobile Reserve can concentrate on being the ‘anti-gang unit’, enhancing the highly necessary, police crime-fighting role.

Crime-fighting support from the JDF, to the police force, ought to be just supplemental to what the soldiers do.


Meanwhile, there may be some budgetary issues which may arise from these proposals. So let us address them head-on.

Over the last few years, the government, according to my analysis, has been incrementally reducing money allocated to the JDF.

If my analysis is right – and I am sure it is – how can they even pretend that they take the issue of law and order serious?

This government penny-pinching of JDF money is truly unfortunate.

Overall, though, the transformation of the JDF’s role would not, in my opinion, significantly impact the national budget.

In any event, even if it were so, and it was necessary to increase spending – in the short term – people’s safety, and community justice, must have the highest priority in the national budget.

In the long run, however, a new pioneering JDF would bring considerable savings to the national economy.

Time come, my friends! Jamaica has important national priorities.

It is full time to tell the IMF that the US$17 billion debt is unsustainable and unpayable!

Jamaica is well past the point of an unsustainable foreign debt, so it is full time to be more creative in how we prioritise the most urgent problems.

Jamaica’s long-term debt is unsustainable, and we can’t keep depending on China to provide low-cost loans for basic infrastructure projects that can be done using local resources.

My dear friends, the government must come up with more innovative solutions to fight crime.

The country urgently needs to address this national priority of balancing law and order with creating social justice.

This matter is urgent. It can’t wait!

They must listen to the people in the community who urgently need their help to bring justice to their community.

We need a new social justice model that creates peace and safety while helping the community to solve their everyday problems.

Giving the JDF a new role would certainly help, if implemented. It would certainly be a new approach in creating social justice while bringing peace and safety to all.

That is just the ‘bitta’ truth!

Norris McDonald is an economic journalist, political analyst, and respiratory therapist. Email feedback to and