Jamaica is seeking $1 billion in
loans and grants to rid the country of “cancerous” drug gangs that have taken
over poor neighbourhoods on the Caribbean island and hurt economic growth,
Finance Minister Audley Shaw said.
Government officials met with
representatives from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, United
Nations, the U.S. and European countries to seek funds to expand the police
force and rebuild communities where drug lords have become de-facto governors,
Shaw said, adding the violence can’t be allowed to continue.
“It saps the energy of the country,
it saps all productive capacity,” he said from Kingston. “Our investment
partners have recognized that this government is demonstrating it knows how to
deal with the crime problem.”
Prime Minister Bruce Golding
declared a state of emergency 23 May to contain gang violence related to
efforts to extradite an accused drug lord to the U.S., which Shaw said was the
beginning of a broader campaign against gangs that control parts of the
capital. At least 74 people have been killed during the hunt for Christopher
“Dudus” Coke, who remains at large.
“What we want to do is make sure we deal with
this cancerous problem,” Shaw said.
Tax revenue in May was about $226
million, 4 per cent less than the government had forecast as tourists cancelled
trips, Shaw said. The crisis may increase the budget deficit, which is
projected to reach 6.5 per cent of GDP this year, should revenue from foreign
visitors fall, Shaw said.
Coke is accused by the U.S. of
leading an international criminal group known as the “Shower Posse,” with
members in Jamaica and the U.S. He is charged with conspiracy to distribute
marijuana and cocaine and conspiracy to illegally traffic in firearms,
according to the office of the New York Attorney General. His lawyers have
denied any wrongdoing by Coke.