The Economic Growth Council presented its recommendations to a meeting of the Cabinet on Monday, September 12th. The report updated the Cabinet on its work to date and outlined a set of Growth Initiatives along with specific policy proposals, to achieve higher levels of growth in the Jamaican economy.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness appointed the Economic Growth Council, to consult widely and to advise the Cabinet on a collection of broad platform policies and reforms that would facilitate economic growth. These Growth Initiatives are intended to facilitate the removal of various obstacles to economic growth and shake the “trunk of the tree” with the potential to positively impact thousands of businesses and millions of Jamaicans.
According to the Chairman of the EGC, Mr. Michael Lee-Chin; “Our job has been to question, listen, review, read and consult with a view to nurturing consensus on prioritisation for impact. This is a reflective process and our proposals reflect the collective views of fellow Jamaicans across the private, public and voluntary sectors.”
The report draws from inputs gained from over 80 consultative meetings held with stakeholders over the past four months. These groupings included various business groups, the confederation of trade unions, the Opposition, public sector agencies, ministries of government, members of academia, the media, diplomatic missions, and multilateral development agencies among other stakeholders. It also draws from studies and work in the area over the years.
In the words of Ambassador Dr. Nigel Clarke, Deputy Chairman of the EGC, “The good news is that the solutions to Jamaica’s problems are not unknown. They lie in copious reports, studies, commission findings, ministry papers, and executive plans that lie in the ‘filing cabinets of government’. We have reviewed many unimplemented recommendations and included the most impactful of these.”
The Growth Initiatives translate into numerous specific policy proposals, which have been recommended to the Cabinet for consideration and which the EGC plans to communicate over the days and weeks to come. The Council will continue its ongoing consultation with stakeholders and the wider community in order to facilitate the full participation and ownership of the initiatives by the citizens of Jamaica.
The eight (8) Growth Initiatives outlined are:
- MAINTAIN MACRO-ECONOMIC STABILITY AND PURSUE DEBT REDUCTION STRATEGIES
Macro-economic stability is a pre-requisite for economic growth. The stability we enjoy today has been hard earned but remains fragile. High debt poses a systemic risk to the Jamaican economy. Jamaica needs to continue the process of fiscal consolidation with a view to achieving debt sustainability. Economic growth and fiscally responsibility are not mutually exclusive.
- IMPROVE CITIZEN SECURITY
Improving citizen security is the most consequential growth-inducing reform that Jamaica can undertake. Jamaicans need to experience dramatically improved levels of security and feelings of personal safety. However, it requires a comprehensive approach encompassing judicial and police reform, while also addressing entrenched problems of social exclusion among other measures. Piecemeal, kneejerk responses that lack depth and perspective are unlikely to improve outcomes.
- IMPROVE ACCESS TO FINANCE
Finance is the oxygen of business. Small and medium sized businesses have too hard a problem accessing debt and equity financing. Some of the problems lie with regulatory constraints, competition, and over burdensome taxation. Arguably, aspects of the regulatory framework for the financial sector impede risk taking, which vibrant economies require, rather than promoting the prudent management of risk. Improving access to finance expands economic opportunity, improves business competition and creates a more meritocratic and fair society.
- PURSUE BUREACRATIC REFORM TO IMPROVE THE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
All aspects of the interface between Government and business are in need of reform to improve effectiveness, efficiency and customer service.
- STIMULATE GREATER ASSET UTILISATION
Increasing the utilisation of dormant and under-utilised assets would have a major impact on employment and growth. The Urban Development Corporation and the Factories Corporation of Jamaica, for example, collectively own approximately J$100 billion of assets on which they earn a relatively modest return.. In addition, several functions provided by the Government of Jamaica could, arguably, be better performed by the private sector thereby improving resource allocation. Having a robust, socially responsible mechanism to accelerate privatisations and asset sales could have a meaningful growth effect.
- BUILD HUMAN CAPITAL
Human capital is too often an undervalued component in the conversation on growth. We need to focus on policies and strategies that nurture human capital development and provide skills training that match the needs of our economy.
- HARNESS THE POWER OF THE DIASPORA
The diaspora represents very powerful reservoir of capital, relationships, skills and expertise that remains largely untapped. Replicating and leveraging diaspora engagement models that have been successfully pioneered by India, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and Chile among other countries would allow Jamaica to more constructively organize and harness the power of the diaspora for economic growth and social development.
- CATALYSE THE IMPLEMENTATION OF STRATEGIC PROJECTS
Strategic projects are critically important. As Jamaica’s experience has shown, by themselves these projects do not necessarily lead to economic growth at a national level. These projects can, however, transform towns and communities. We must therefore focus on strategic projects to ensure timely and efficient implementation.
The EGC’s focus will be on a method of implementation that encourages the Government of Jamaica to enter into an action oriented Declaration of Intent (“Declaration”) with the EGC, private sector groups, unions, and civil society. This will underscore their commitment to specific policies that fall under each Growth Initiative, consistent with the Terms of Reference of the EGC. This approach will provide for there to be a transparent process of monitoring and reporting on implementation, in accordance with the Declaration and for the Declaration to be a “living document”, updated on a periodic basis.
Adam Stewart, Deputy Chairman and CEO of the Sandals/ATL Group and a member of the EGC said, “The Growth Initiatives recommended by the EGC are not exhaustive, and are not intended to replace government or to be a parallel form of government. They cannot solve all of Jamaica’s problems. However, they represent a critical and important subset of what needs to be done to achieve economic growth.”
For Further Information, please contact:
Cell: 560 4751
Email: [email protected]
Economic Growth Council Secretariat