I’m here because this is a very important day in Jamaica’s history, indeed our government.
The government has taken a positive decision towards what we like to call the ownership economy.
A few days ago, I was reading the editorial in one of our leading newspapers and you can guess which one that is, and the writer of the editorial was making the point that Wigton came out of the PetroCaribe loan facility and thereby attributed Wigton’s success to our good friendship and relationship with Venezuela and this is true, there’s no debate about that. Indeed, the lament was the closing of the PetroCaribe Funds and the intention of the founders of PetroCaribe, that this would be a way to give back to poor countries that were oil dependent, indeed a way to help countries that were energy poor and populations that were energy poor.
If we reflect on what we are doing today and how we’ve structured the transaction you would have to say that this is the best way of giving back to the people of the country, this is the best way of achieving the goal of socialization of wealth. There is a confusion operating in the minds of some individuals that placing wealth on our stock markets is a way of making the rich richer. It can be no doubt but in a democratic society in a properly regulated market it is the best way of socializing wealth; put it in another way it is better than socialism.
Our economic strategy, I’m sure Dr Clarke would have expounded on this, is economic independence. For that we mean the ability of the country and indeed its citizens to make decisions in its own economic interest without having to consider what it owes or what it will lose if it acts or does not act in a particular way.
Presently we genuinely cannot say that we are fully an economically independent country and there are those again who confuse two things. One Is our political independence and the other is our economic independence.
The truth is that your political independence is really hinged on your economic Independence and so what we are about yes, ultimately is to secure our political independence and the best way to do this by securing our economic independence and to do that we must push wealth into the hands of the people.
So, our strategy is not poverty alleviation, our strategy is not welfare, our strategy is wealth creation and I know that in the minds of many Jamaicans there is a fear almost that wealth creation is synonymous with exploitation. Again, we have to get that out of our psyche, out of our way of thinking.
Jamaica is destined to be a rich country and we must never be afraid of wealth. We must not be afraid making a profit. Profit is a good thing.
Again, we must change our thinking because historically we have seen the private sector as in elite group of rapacious capitalists just waiting to gobble up and exploit the little man. It is about time that we have a transformation in thinking where even the little man can feel that he too can make a profit, that he too is a part of the private sector that creates wealth and can share in that wealth. So, today, for me is a great day. It is the first step towards the socialization of wealth in the country so there will be more to come.
You would have heard that we are now starting the process of divesting the JPS shares – that is a policy decision that has been taken. It goes through a process, the DBJ will do just as it did with Wigton to package that and bring it to market so that will come.
We have taken a policy decision on the Jamaica Mortgage Bank another very profitable well-run government agency. Again, it will go through the process with the DBJ to be packaged and brought to market. These are assets that Jamaicans should own. Now you may be saying well if they are government owned, Jamaicans own them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again there is a distinction between the voter owning a company and the shareholder owning a company.
The truth is that shareholders are better than voters in holding the management and directors of companies to account. They usually ensure a better yield on the deployment of resources, so the intention of government as far as is possible is to pace business operations in the hands of shareholders.
We’re going through the list of business operations that government owns and as soon as it is practicable, as soon as it is possible we will be packaging them and placing them in the hands of the Jamaican citizens again socializing the wealth.
This will relieve government of some massive risks, risks of corruption for example. You know we’re dealing with these risks in companies that are operated by the government where the directors have to make commercial decisions which does not always match up with the public governance framework of these companies but more than the corruption risk it also ensures that scarce resources are more efficiently used which is usually the case when these resources are in the private sector. I believe you can see the strategy of the government going forward.
I have great hopes for Wigton in the private sector. The truth is that in a few more months, I believe by June Minister Williams the IRP, (Integrated Resource Plan), which is the road map for the next two years… 20 years, so long. Are you sure? Well they usually review them regularly, but it is a road map of our energy use and growth and that will determine the new procurement of electricity generation that will be needed.
Wigton, by virtue of being an already efficient operator, by virtue of refining their skills in the private sector would be at a very good- (I don’t want to use the word advantage) but would certainly be very well paced competitively to capture some of that newly determined space for procurement which means that the longevity of the company would look very well.
The truth is that the government and I would suspect that governments going forward will want to focus more on the development of renewable energy. So, the green economy and I love everything about the green economy – that is the future of investments. Solar technology is improving, and the price is going down. Wind technology is improving and the price is going down but most importantly storage technology is improving and the price is going down and once they have been able to overcome that obstacle then you will see more renewables being integrated as firm capacity. So, I think Wigton is very well-placed to be a commercial success going forward and is a good buy or rather a good asset to buy.
Finally, I was just looking on some statistics and I don’t want to make an error, but I gather that STATIN has reported that the actual real GDP growth for the October to December quarter was 2%.
I’m happy but I’m not clapping. We have had – Minister Clarke what is it now 16 consecutive quarters of growth, all increasing inch by inch by inch. We will get to four, maybe not in five but we will get to four and very soon. We are on the runway, we are picking up momentum. We will take off and soar as this country is destined to do.
Ladies and gentlemen buy Wigton.