Thu | Dec 8, 2016

It's the economy

Published:Thursday | January 1, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Brian Pengelley

As Jamaica welcomes 2015 today, business, civic and religious leaders have acknowledged that issues related to the economy had the greatest impact on the nation over the past year.

Jamaica's performance under the $1.2-billion economic programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been listed as the top item to be celebrated.

The islandwide outbreak of the chikungunya virus (chik-V), the 18 per cent reduction in murders and the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry rounded out the four things sector leaders said had a major impact on Jamaican life in 2014.

For Jamaica Manufacturers' Association President Brian Pengelley, the implementation of the IMF programme and the willingness of all stakeholders to stay the course made it an easy call.

"If we hadn't done that, we would have been in very big trouble. It's a very simple reason," Pengelley emphasised.

While noting the adverse impact on public-sector employees, Oneil Grant, president of the Jamaica Civil Service Association, agreed, saying Jamaicans would have been worse off if the country did not meet the conditions laid out by the IMF as well as contain expenses.

"The sacrifices made by all of the partners would have come to naught if we were not able to achieve those," Grant argued.

Last year, Jamaica passed all

three IMF tests - six dating back to the last financial year. This means the country met all the quantitative targets set by the US-based lending institution.

However, for Dennis Chung, executive director of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and Erica Wynter, president of the Young Entrepreneurs Association, the lost man-hours caused by the chik-V outbreak had a greater impact.

"The one that might have had the biggest impact was the chikungunya in terms of a one-time incident," he told The Gleaner yesterday.

Wynter went further, asserting that the chik-V outbreak left many businesses, especially the smaller ones, devastated.

"Imagine you as a small business owner with a staff complement of five persons and you had sometimes four or five persons out because of chik-V. I think it affected us more than the larger entities because they would have the resources to bounce back easily; we do not," she explained.

The Reverend Karl Johnson, general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, said the reduction in the number of persons killed this year "has to be something to celebrate".

"It is all tied up, for me, in the fact that I believe one of the great challenges of our beloved country is to develop and sustain a wholesome ethic of life," Johnson argued.

But Donovan Walker, president of the Jamaican Bar Association, believes the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry could turn out to be a watershed moment for Jamaica.

According to him, if the enquiry is conducted properly, the nation could start getting answers to one of the "greatest massacres of Jamaican citizens since the Morant Bay rebellion".

"We really do need, as a country, to have answers to those questions. So what is important is that the enquiry is conducted, not for political gain, not for sound bites, but to get to the heart of what caused it and preventing this from ever happening again," he said of the enquiry into the 2010 police-military operations in the west Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens.

Walker said what will be interesting is to see how the Government responds to the findings of the commission.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com