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'Cautiously optimistic' - Business owners, financial analysts positive about Christmas

Published:Wednesday | December 14, 2016 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott
Dennis Chung

Off the back of a 2.3 per cent growth in the economy for the June to September quarter of this year and with business and consumer confidence still soaring, there is a general feeling among business operators and financial analysts that this Christmas season will produce increased economic expansion.

The positive outlook, they say, is being fuelled by growth in the economy, the continued fiscal discipline of the Government, and also the effect of the implementation of Phase One of the Government's $1.5-million tax threshold plan.

Both the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) have also labelled 2016 a better year for business than last year, as the country has pressed ahead and achieved economic growth while maintaining fiscal discipline.

"It is not only that. People are seeing a lot more opportunities for income ... . There is significant expenditure taking place, and we have estimated from earlier this year that Montego Bay,

St James, alone will be growing by six per cent," Dennis Chung, chief executive officer of the PSOJ, told The Gleaner yesterday.

"I am optimistic about this Christmas because we have two weeks to go and the plazas are already full," he added.

On the ground in some of Kingston's busiest plazas, business operators are sharing the optimism as expressed by the PSOJ boss, albeit at varying degrees.

In Cross Roads, five of the seven business operators with whom our news team spoke said this year's sales are looking better than last year's.

"Business is good so far. The people are coming out, the weekends are very busy, but we see people coming out as early as Wednesday," Dexter, a store operator in Cross Roads, told The Gleaner.

Michael Walker, who sells fruits in front of a popular plaza along Old Hope Road in St Andrew, also said he was seeing increased sales this year over last.

"It's much better. Much, much better. Things picking up, and from downtown [Kingston] is buzzing, up here will get good business, so I would say it's a good look this year, trust me," he said.

In Half-Way Tree, similar sentiments were expressed by business operators, but many of them, while they were optimistic, believe the sales of the next two weeks will determine if their Christmas will be merry.

Professor Densil Williams, executive director of the Mona School of Business and Management, told The Gleaner yesterday that while he does not expect anything spectacular happening in the economy this Christmas season, he was "cautiously optimistic" that the economy will register growth, as there are signs that it is rebounding.

"There is going to be some business activity, because we would have seen some recovery [of the economy]. We would have seen growth in the June to September quarter, but I think persons are still going to be cautious," he said.

While the additional disposable income from the first phase of the $1.5 million tax threshold plan is thought to be driving commerce, Williams has argued that the potential buoyancy that could result will not be achieved because there was still uncertainty as to how Phase Two will be implemented come April of next year.

Despite that concern, Williams believes the 2.3 per cent growth that was registered for the last quarter could be surpassed, given the extra bounce in commercial activity that usually comes with the Christmas season.