Peter's 'new deal' - Phillips offers Gov't three keys to unlock economic growth
Opposition Spokesman on Finance Dr Peter Phillips is of the view that the Jamaican economy will not achieve high rates of economic growth unless the country addresses the problems stemming from social and economic inequality.
In his presentation to the Budget Debate in Gordon House yesterday, Phillips acknowledged that the requisite levels of growth in the economy would be difficult to accomplish if the hundreds of thousands of citizens who have been living on the margins of the society are not brought into the mainstream of the social and economic life of the country.
According to him, the Government should complete the reform of the education system to ensure that the 50 per cent of students who are being left behind each year after leaving school are adequately prepared for the job market.
"We will have to modernise our security forces to effectively control crime and anti-social behaviour," the spokesman added.
He called for the Government to pursue three critical initiatives to confront poverty and inequality in Jamaica: a new deal for agriculture, land titling and housing.
NEW DEAL FOR AGRICULTURE
Highlighting what he described as a "new deal for Jamaican agriculture", Phillips said the creation of a more competitive exchange rate as part of the economic reform programme provided a vital push for the agriculture sector. He said the new deal should also focus on improved infrastructure, especially water and irrigation, and an expansion of the extension services to provide advice in both agricultural technique and in marketing.
He said there was need for a new approach to land titling to enable the more than 40 per cent of local agricultural producers who have no land title to obtain one.
Currently, Phillips said some 700,000 Jamaicans are categorised as squatters.
The opposition spokesman said his People's National Party is committed to "creating a legal framework to rationalise the more than 100 pieces of legislation which currently impact directly or indirectly on land ownership and use".
He suggested that the "new legal framework should facilitate the regularisation of persons who have occupied registered land for years, particularly in our inner-city communities where, despite possession for decades, occupants are unable to obtain titles".
At the same time, Phillips said specific initiatives would have to be pursued in order to provide affordable and adequate housing solutions for Jamaicans.
"Find a way to encourage self-building initiatives for low-income persons through [a] micro-financing scheme financed by National Housing Trust through the credit unions," said Phillips.
Further, he said there was need to "drastically reduce the lead time from initiation to start, and, of course, speedier construction".