Case | HBS Case Collection | April 2011 (Revised February 2016)

Jamaica's Anemic Growth: The IMF, China and the Debt(th) Trap

by Rafael Di Tella and Natalie Kindred


This case describes the economic development problems faced by the small Caribbean-island country of Jamaica over most of the past half-century. The Jamaican economy showed relatively strong growth in the 1960s but stagnated in the 1970s. By the end of that decade, Jamaica was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for balance-of-payments support. Over the 1980s and early 1990s, the unpopular policy conditions associated with IMF loan programs made the Fund a lightning rod for criticism over Jamaica's lack of economic progress. Jamaicans celebrated the end of IMF borrowing in the mid-1990s, but a severe financial crisis later that decade created a new layer of economic problems. In 2010, in the context of the global economic downturn, Jamaica once again returned to the IMF for financing support. This case allows students to explore the complicated economic difficulties faced by Jamaica, which remains burdened by a self-reinforcing set of interrelated factors, including high public debt, a sluggish private sector, an inefficient public sector, poverty, and crime, among others.

Keywords: Government Administration; Economic Slowdown and Stagnation; International Finance; Crime and Corruption; Poverty; Private Sector; Insolvency and Bankruptcy; Economy; Developing Countries and Economies; Borrowing and Debt; Jamaica;


Di Tella, Rafael, and Natalie Kindred. "Jamaica's Anemic Growth: The IMF, China and the Debt(th) Trap." Harvard Business School Case 711-031, April 2011. (Revised February 2016.)