by Kavon Fiennes
Sometimes Cato Rand and I think we are prophets. That’s hard to prove however, without a date-and-time-stamped-recording of our discussions. Over the past 6 or so years we wished we had a radio programme to interact with the public and converse on the problems with politics and governance in Jamaica (that did not materialize, which led to the RightFromYaad blog).
For the past 2 or so years (the failings of) the Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA) has been a recurring theme in our discussions with respect to the steep and continued decline of the Jamaican Agricultural sector over the past 20-25 years.
The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) is Jamaica’s chief agricultural extension and rural development agency. It exists as a statutory body under the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries (MOAF), headquartered at Hope Gardens.
The government had great intentions when the RADA Act was passed into law in 1990. But not unlike most Jamaican government agencies, RADA is a total failure. Just short of J$1 Billion (J$900 mill) is wasted on this agency every year.
RADA and the MOAF has tried everything….cassava project after cassava project, (with at least one non-starter of a spin-off initiative); tablets for extension officers; tractor rentals; $5 million on the farm book (receipt book) initiative (which failed to end praedial larceny and was relaunched); passive surveillance resulting in a failed National Screwworm Eradication Programme. Nothing they have done has worked. Where are the success stories of this agency?
So the latest solution by certain big wigs to fix Jamaica’s agricultural problem is to ban food imports; or as yesterday morning’s Jamaica Gleaner Editorial suggests, we should give RADA more money because of lack of budgetary support. These guys are crazy!
This sort of protectionism of local agriculture or the increased funding suggestions for RADA will have dire consequences. The common man will not be able to eat. There will be food shortages and at higher prices. Added to that, there will be thousands put out of work, as those companies with employees directly involved in food importation will be forced to cut costs; there will be lost revenue for customs brokers and freight forwarding companies; not to mention the thousands of market sellers who depend on imported produce to sell in our markets across the length and breadth of the country. We will indeed have a “Bang belly” economy if it comes to these impositions.
If we are so concerned with loss of foreign exchange, imbalance of trade and a high food import bill….why stop at these suggestions with agriculture? Why not ban car imports, cell phone imports, TV imports and apparel imports? That would reduce or import bill significantly; and if agriculture would flourish under protectionism…then by logic, local production in all those other industries will flourish also…wouldn’t it?
RADA itself has 10 objectives….and has failed in every single one, unless someone can bring forth evidence to the contrary.
It is trying to do too much, as is customary of government, without a single achievement of worth. Jamaica’s agricultural sector can be likened to a brain dead patient on the life support of special billion dollar EU/IDB/World Bank grants.
As I had said before we can make wholesale cuts in Jamaican government expenditure. Jamaica can save a lot of money without RADA. Can you imagine if we had not started it how much money we could have saved over the past 23 years? It is time to shut it down.
Kavon Fiennes is creator of the RightFromYaad blog. He is a 30-something year old ‘Black’, sometimes ‘Brown’, Jamaican. He is a former socialist, nationalist and Democrat, turned Libertarian and semi-conservative since his mid 20′s. He still holds lingering left-wing views on the way society ought to treat the destitute and elderly.