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Audley Shaw wants Government to find work overseas for Jamaicans

Published:Wednesday | March 18, 2015 | 3:00 AMDaraine Luton
Opposition spokeman on Finance, Audley Shaw, making his presentation to the Budget debate at Parliament yesterday.

The Jamaican Government is being urged to consider developing a regime to facilitate the export of labour.

Audley Shaw, the opposition spokesman on finance, in contributing to the Budget Debate in the House of Representatives yesterday, said the economy could benefit from greater remittance inflow if the measure was successfully implemented.

"Until our economy develops its own internal growth momentum, we must develop a formal overseas work-recruitment programme - similar to the farm work and hotel workers programmes - that seeks job opportunities for a wider range of locally available skill sets that are unemployed or underemployed in Jamaica," Shaw said.

The suggestion for the export of labour comes months after another parliamentarian, Damion Crawford, said Jamaicans should consider migrating to developed countries for better opportunities. Crawford, a state minister, also listed increased remittances as a positive spin-off for the country.

Yesterday, Shaw, in outlining a 20-point growth plan, said that there are many Jamaicans who are seeking jobs overseas and are finding it difficult to negotiate obstacles imposed by scam artists, who have been taking away their money without honouring the promise of employment.

"The Government should regulate the sector register, and license qualified operators, and charge a fee for these employment agencies as well as a fee from successful applicants for overseas work," Shaw said.

"The benefits gained would be increased remittances, and government revenue, and exposing more of our workers to an international work ethic that will redound to everyone's benefit from increased productivity," he added.

Last Thursday, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips outlined the main components of the Government's growth agenda as being fiscal consolidation; business environment competitiveness reform; strategic investment projects such as agro parks; integrated resort development and the global logistics hub initiative; and human capital development.

Phillips also said that addressing crime and violence and building environmental resilience were critical aspects of the growth agenda.

But yesterday, Shaw said that the nation was in a sorry state and that urgent action was needed to restore hope to Jamaicans whose lives he said had got worse, even as the Government boasts about passing tests administered by the International Monetary Fund.

Shaw, a former finance minister, has recommended that the Government expedite the implementation of planned projects such as the logistics hub, the Caymanas Economic Zone, the divestment of the Kingston Container Terminal, and the establishment of Kingston as an international financial centre.

"New steps must be taken, with urgency, to accelerate the development of downtown Kingston as a major regional near-shore financial centre to attract businesses from North, Central, and South America. The pending legislation should be crafted to target this market," Shaw said.

In addition, Shaw argued that with Jamaica's large foreign ownership of banks, insurance, telecommunications, and hotel businesses, the remission of dividends put huge pressure on the exchange rates. He suggested that investment tax credits should be offered to these companies to retain their profits in Jamaica.

Shaw described as "rapacious", the manner in which the country's commercial banks have been going about the business of providing loans to micro, small, and medium enterprises.

"Commercial banks and other lending institutions should be encouraged, incentivised to provide affordable single-digit interest rate-pegged funds for small businesses and small farmers with marketable business plans. The allowable spreads between DBJ rates and commercial bank lending rates for DBJ loans should be regulated by the Ministry of Finance," Shaw said.

"The commercial banks, they are too rapacious when it comes to their demands for high spreads. All over the world, commercial banks live on spreads of three per cent, some live on spreads of four per cent ... but in Jamaica, commercial banks want spreads of 10, 11, 12, 14, 15 per cent. Madness! Then they take our development banking money and they are demanding a big spread on that, too. The Government must regulate it," Shaw said.

The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) seeks to stimulate and enhance economic and social development in the country and distributes loan capital through approved financial institutions. The DBJ's policy stipulates that the interest rate to end users can be no more than three per cent higher than its rate to approved financial institutions.