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Economic pressure not in sync with reality – Byles

Published:Wednesday | October 21, 2015 | 10:00 AMMcPherse Thompson
Co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee, Richard Byles.

The reactions of many Jamaicans to the pressure they are experiencing is not in sync with the favourable economic indicators in the country, according to co-chairman of

the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), Richard Byles.

Economic pressure usually refers to a time when economic indicators are not in a favourable condition.

Using the analogy of a person who is ill, Byles said "it's almost as if when tests such as magnetic reasoning imaging (MRI), computerised axial tomography scan (CAT scan) and various others are conducted, the results show that the patient is getting better but still "does not look good".

However, Byles said the facts are that the economic conditions are generally going positively, and, among businesses and other people, it is more positive than it was three or six months ago.

He said that was reflected in the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce confidence indices as well as recent polls which show a reduction in the number of people "who think we are going in the wrong direction, a reduction in the negative outlook on the economic situation".

Byles said he "personally feels very strongly" that the fiscal management under the four-year economic support programme with the International Monetary Fund has been good and, "I am pretty confident it will continue to be good."

Addressing a press conference where he released the 29th communique of the non-public sector members of EPOC last week, the co-chairman said, "the real battle is on the frontier of growth. And on the frontier of growth it is, will Jamaican business people continue to invest and do so in an increased way and will foreign direct investors come to Jamaica and say, yes, I like what I see, I'm going to put my money in here'."

Byles said Jamaica is, at this time, in a better condition economically, "but we still are in a scary place, meaning our debt-to-GDP (gross domestic product) is still too high (and), our economic growth is still too low, but we are making progress."

Referring to the announcement that Karisma Hotels and Resorts will be investing more than US$900 million in the local tourism industry over 10 years, and Heineken's acquisition of Diageo's shares in Red Stripe, Byles said those were two very strong votes of confidence in Jamaica by international investors.

Noting that the beer giant will be investing some US$600 million, Byles said "Heineken, an international company, is saying I am prepared to put that in Jamaica, and I think that's a tremendous vote of confidence."

The acquisition of the shares will bring Heineken's stake in Desnoes & Geddes Limited, the operating company for Red Stripe, to just over 73 per cent.

Under Jamaica's stock market rules, it means Heineken will have to make a buyout offer for all other D&G shares.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com