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JAMAICA | Private sector says policy continuity is reason for confidence in Jamaican economy

Featured Immediate Past President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), Warren McDonald Immediate Past President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), Warren McDonald
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 12, CMC – Jamaica’s private sector leaders say the unprecedented high levels of business and consumer confidence in the local economy  is attributable to several key factors including the decision by governments to continue policies and programmes initiated by their predecessors and deemed to be feasible.

Immediate Past President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), Warren McDonald, praised the decision of successive governments to follow through with policies and programmes they inherited including the continued implementation of the fiscal responsibility policy, which was commenced by the previous administration, “and which the current government acknowledged as necessary, and has continued”.

Jamaica dollarssHe told the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) that this is very encouraging, as Jamaica “cannot afford to have programmes abandoned just because they were initiated by another administration.

“I think this has led to growing confidence in the whole economic path (which is indicating that) all of the fundamentals are positive. If you examine them, the debt is declining, inflation is at all-time lows, interest rates are declining… all of the indicators are on the right path. It (also) indicates that we should see improved growth,” he pointed out.

McDonald said other strategies, including hotel room expansion and focus on boosting the hospitality sector’s outputs through linkages forged between tourism and other portfolio areas, such as agriculture and pending housing developments, are fuelling the burgeoning wave of confidence.

“I think there is general optimism that things are improving… that we are showing maturity in our whole governance (framework) and that things should further improve,” he added.

Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) President, David Wan, said he also believes that the Andrew Holness administration has acquitted itself fairly well during its first year in office by announcing polices and targets deemed business-friendly.

Wan said notable among these is their undertaking to reduce bureaucracy and the impending public-sector transformation “which will make the government more efficient”.

The JEF president anticipates that fewer resources will be required to drive State entities’ operations and that the government will further reduce borrowing from the local market, which will “make it (even) easier and cheaper for the private sector to access capital from the banks or wherever they access money from”.

Wan also identified the projected construction boom, particularly for housing, as another factor heightening confidence levels.

“I think that the administration’s stated intention to build more houses, especially though joint ventures involving the National Housing Trust (NHT), is going to encourage… greater investments in real estate, because a number of these ventures are expected to be public-private partnerships,” he said.

Wan also highlighted the government’s focus on inner-city renewal, which should encourage private stakeholder investments in communities being redeveloped.

Additionally, he cited the increased personal income tax threshold for Pay As You Earn (PAYE) workers to J$1.5 million (One Jamaica dollar =US$0.008 cents) and the government’s negotiation of the successor Precautionary Stand-By Agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as additional factors.

Small Businesses Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) President, Hugh Johnson, also hailed the administration’s commitment to continuing programmes that are deemed effective.

He cited Prime Minister Holness’ “deliberate” undertaking to this end in his 2017/18 Budget Debate presentation in the House.

Johnson also highlighted the administration’s “genuine effort” to further improve the ease of doing business by reducing the bureaucratic red tape.

He mentioned the opening of a bank account as one example of the challenges associated with registering a business, where “tremendous progress” has been made, particularly by the Companies Office of Jamaica, to rectify that.

While noting that the association is “uncomfortable” with elements of bureaucracy that still remain, Johnson maintained that the business environment “has been significantly improved and (we are) hoping for it to improve even further”.

President of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) President, Metry Seaga, attributed the high levels of business and consumer confidence to “a lot of the economic indicators pointing in the right direction”.

“The previous administration started the ball rolling, and this government has continued it, where we have been fiscally responsible; and that is yielding dividends where our dollar has been stable, interest rates are coming down and investments are up. We feel that those are the things that have (significantly boosted confidence levels),” Seaga said.

  • Countries: Jamaica