in 1942, huge deposits of bauxite were discovered, and the
multinational aluminum companies ALCOA, ALCAN and Reynolds &
Kaiser quickly penetrated the country. Sugar production was
displaced to a second place.
The groups extracted the country's minerals from the
classic colonial scheme. The bauxite was exported in raw
form without local machining. The companies made all
decisions about production and paid only sparse customs
After independence, a few factories were set up to
process bauxite for aluminum, but most of the bauxite
continued to be exported in crude form to the United States.
In 1973, Jamaica was the world's second largest exporter of
bauxite, accounting for half of the country's exports, but
only 1% of the labor force was employed in this sector.
The PNP won the elections in 1972, and in 1974 new Prime
Minister Michael Manley raised the tax on bauxite exports
and entered into negotiations with the multinational
corporations to gain state participation, regain control of
the companies' land (one third of the country) and a greater
control over their activities.
At the same time, the PNP provided a strong impetus for
regional Caribbean integration. Together with Venezuela, a
joint bauxite trading company was set up and Jamaica joined
the Caribbean's multinational trading fleet. Together with
Cuba and Costa Rica, policies were developed to prevent the
penetration of the North American capital.
At the following elections in December 1976, the PNP
achieved a crushing victory consolidating its parliamentary
majority. With this broad support, Manley now declared that
the country would embark on a socialist development within
the context of the existing constitution.
Jamaica was now given a more prominent role in the
Alliance Free Movement and effectively defended its support
for the liberation movements - especially in southern
Africa. This development created strong tensions with the
United States, and the multinational companies reduced their
bauxite production and moved parts of it to Guyana. As a
result, export revenues fell, and the government's social
programs ended up without funding.