Wed | Dec 7, 2016

It's the economy - Sector leaders list issues impacting Jamaica as 2015 gets under way

Published:Thursday | January 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica Manufacturers' Association President Brian Pengelley.
Oniel Grant, president of the Jamaica Civil Service Association.
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Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

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.

Something to
celebrate

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