“Given the present dispensation in which we are forced to operate as a nation, we have no option at this time but to endure a little longer, the stringencies and fiscal discipline imposed by the administration’s Economic Reform Programme,” the Minister pleaded.
Addressing the opening ceremony for the 33rd annual Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF) Business and Workplace Convention and Expo, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, in St James, on May 21, Mr. Kellier argued that it was the absence of such a programme prior to now, that has placed the country among the most indebted nations in the world and also stagnated the economy for all of 40 years.
“Happily, the Jamaican economy is a far cry from this reality. A lot of our economic indices in the 2014-2015 period are demonstrating positive results of the country’s comprehensive Economic Reform Programme under the four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) agreement with the IMF,” the Minister said.
Mr. Kellier said there is now opportunity for a partnership among all Jamaicans, “the private and public sectors, the labour movement, civil society and the government, to join hands, hearts and brains in the transformation of the economy and society through collaboration at all levels and innovation in terms of research and development, to spur long term growth and development and the decent work agenda.”
“The economy, at long last, is growing at a rate of 1.5 per cent – setting the stage for the generation of confidence in the ability of the economy to achieve further levels of growth (1.6 per cent annually over the next five years), and stability,” he added, noting that the country’s “business and consumer confidence is at all-time high with 65 per cent of firms reporting that it is a good time to expand their productive capacity.”
Among other indicators listed by the Minister are investment plans that have surged 10 per cent higher than the prior peak of 55 per cent in the second quarter of 2014; inflation trending down from 9.3 per cent in January 2014 to 5.3per cent year to date; the reduction of the food import bill by $5 billion or 4.5 per cent over the corresponding period in 2013; as well as a decline in the debt to GDP ratio.
“The Government, in striving for growth, is pursuing sensible tax reform, strategies to increase investments, the establishment of a Growth Secretariat to be responsive to the growth needs, and the crafting of a Five-Year strategic plan for the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector, which has grown from about 11,000 employees to some 17,000 in the past three years,” the Labour Minister noted.
For his part, Past President of the JEF and convention committee Chairman, Wayne Chen, commended the work of the Labour Advisory Council, “a body that does tremendous work for this country, but does not get the recognition I believe it deserves, even though we feel the impact.”
“How do we feel that impact…it has deepened social dialogue in this country for over 20 years. We feel the impact in that it has created a space in which Government, labour and the employers can sit down and thrash out the difficulties before they become grievances that are taken in the street,” he added.
Mr. Chen said the impact has accounted for the measure of social peace experienced by the country, despite several stringent economic adjustments over the past several years.
The Convention is being staged under the theme: ‘Collaborate, Innovate – Opportunities for Growth’.
The four-day convention and expo, which is the largest of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, is being attended by more than 300 participants from the public and private sectors, as well academia in Jamaica, the Caribbean, the United States and Canada.