Mon | Aug 21, 2017

'Too early to tell' - 100 days gone and it's a wait-and-see with Holness' super ministry

Published:Monday | June 13, 2016 | 6:00 AMJovan Johnson
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who heads the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.
William Mahfood: I think that the approach has been very, very positive. We’re really looking forward to what that (growth) council is going to come up with in terms of execution and implementation.
Kevin O'Brien Chang: We really haven’t seen anything much. It would be really premature to judge them.
David Wan: I’'ve heard more than one speech of the prime minister's and it sounds like they have the direction well set.
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It's Andrew Holness' super, super ministry that stakeholders are keenly watching to see whether the elusive growth and economic development trumpeted over many years can actually be realised.

With 100 days now gone since the new administration took office, key players such as the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and the Jamaica Exporters' Association (JEA) say it's almost too early to fully assess the performance of the economic growth and job creation ministry.

It's the same ministry that's aiming to achieve five per cent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in five years.

"I would say probably at this point, an eight out of ten, limited by the fact that they were focusing on a lot of other areas that they needed to," PSOJ President William Mahfood said, noting that the efforts of the prime minister were affected by the transition process and making board appointments.

He added: "I think we've seen a tremendous amount of work to establish the Economic Growth Council and the creation of positions. I think that the approach has been very, very positive. We're really looking forward to what that council is going to come up with in terms of execution and implementation."

The PSOJ head said his organisation is specifically looking for action to deal with the issue of permits, which he says needs reform. Added to that are bureaucracy and tax reform, major issues under the ongoing programme with the International Monetary Fund.

David Wan, who heads the Jamaica Employers' Federation, says "it's too early" to judge, although there is general agreement among his members that the Government's policies align with theirs.

 

AGENDA CLEARLY ANNOUNCED

 

"I think 100 days is too early. The first 100 days, they would want to set the agenda. [From] the pronouncements I've heard, the agenda has been clearly announced. I've heard more than one speech of the prime minister's and it sounds like they have the direction well set," Wan told The Gleaner.

"Now, it's a matter of implementing."

Kevin O'Brien-Chang, political analyst, shares Wan's view, saying, "It's just gearing up."

"From the public's point of view, everybody was waiting on the Budget, the '1.5' (income tax relief plan). The Budget has now been sorted out. We really haven't seen anything much. It would be really premature to judge them," he argued.

Two of the major highlights of the last three months include the establishment of the growth council, with only its chairman, Michael Lee-Chin, being named so far. There was also the appointment of businessman Nigel Clarke as economic ambassador and Aubyn Hill as investment ambassador to India.

Lee-Chin has committed the council to the growth target amid predictions of 1.6 per cent GDP growth this year, an improvement over last year's one per cent.

There's also history as according to the World Bank, "over the last 30 years, real per capita GDP increased at an average of just one per cent per year".

There have been concerns that the ministry may be too large, with duplication and insufficient oversight being potential risks.

Along with Holness as the portfolio minister, the ministry, which covers land, environment, water, housing, climate change and takes in more than 30 departments, is being supervised by Everald Warmington, Daryl Vaz, and Dr Horace Chang.

They have about $8.4 billion to spend this fiscal year.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com