PJ: Time not on our side
P.J. Patterson, GUEST COLUMNIST
Despite the temptation to indulge fully in the festivities of the season, I cannot ignore the invitation to seek a fuller context for my position on the importance of meeting the International Monetary Fund (IMF) quarterly tests while making growth and development the main objective of our national policy.
Why then your discomfort?
Your editorial accepts that my "logic, on the face of it, is unassailable". For nowhere in my remarks, in Treasure Beach, or in similar vein on previous occasions, have I proposed, expressly or tacitly, a "populist call for government spending".
In refuting any suggestion that my utterances were an aberration, caused by a slippage of memory, I rely on the following grounds:
1. My administration so recognised the value of meeting the targets under the IMF programme as to ensure the successful passing of 12 consecutive quarterly tests. Jamaica knows the dire consequences when we do not.
2. The cardinal objective of national economic policy must be to promote growth and development, unless we want to dwell in the IMF house forever. Without this, we will be unable to create jobs and social pressures will increase. The economy will stagnate.
3. Fully accepting the financial and legislative constraints within the current IMF programme, we must focus on how best to spur growth in the economy and accelerate legislative action simultaneously.
The Progressive Agenda provides more than a clue. Vision 2030 Jamaica sets out a coherent and bipartisan plan for national development to which we must adhere.
4. The tighter the constraints, the greater the need to attract private investment, foreign and local.
We applaud the recent improvement in our rankings on the global competitive index, but we are yet to reach the rung attained 10 years ago.
Other nations have improved their game plan, and no investor has money sitting around until Jamaica is ready to give the nod.
Despite previous and present efforts to reduce red tape, as Buju Banton sings, "It is not an easy road."
Ask anyone in the investment field about their professional experience and frustration to criss-cross the bureaucracy and obtain approvals.
5. Time is not on our side. Others will be ready to exploit existing opportunities. Legislation to enable the cannabis industry for medicinal use and a range of by-products must set prime track attention. Mine is not a voice to derail, but to move with deliberate speed.
Access to tourism attractions and cultural complexes require a multi-agency approach. For example, the Tourism
Enhancement Fund, CHASE and the ministries of Works and Local Government will have to combine their technical and financial resources for such a programme of priority capital works.
Without that, no such development will realise its full potential.
6. We have to utilise the existing physical plant for multifaceted purposes. We simply cannot afford to put up a new building for every activity.
The Danny Buchanan facility is ideal for this model - sports, entertainment, health centre, computer training, entrepreneurial skills.
7. Identify the low-hanging fruit - it is abundant.
Dismantle all the useless roadblocks so that we can reap the harvest in good season.
My editor, let me end by expressing full support for the prime minister, the minister of finance and Cabinet, the technocrats, Employee Share Ownership Programme, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the trade unions and civil society which have worked assiduously to meet the economic performance targets and ensure the unlocking of a further US$68 million. Failure is not an option.
As your editorial perceives, the IMF conditionalities are "prerequisites". To breast the tape, there must be no loss of pace in providing "the investment, jobs and growth" for which we all yearn.
P.J. Patterson is a former prime minister of Jamaica. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.