Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Diaspora Conference | 'Get on the economic train or be left behind' - Lee-Chin tells diaspora stage set for Jamaica's growth

Published:Wednesday | July 26, 2017 | 7:00 AMPaul Clarke
Michael Lee-Chin (right), chairman of the Economic Growth Council (EGC), is greeted by Dr David Panton, EGC, Diaspora Task Force/ Panton Equity Partners, just before the start of day two of the Jamaica Diaspora 55 at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston yesterday.

The stage is set for Jamaica to once again deliver strong economic growth, says Michael Lee-Chin, chairman of the Economic Growth Council, while urging members of the diaspora to "get on board the train of success or risk being left behind".

Lee-Chin was speaking at the opening session on day two of the Diaspora Growth Forum during the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference in Kingston yesterday, under the theme 'Innovative Strategies for Inclusive Economic Growth and Job Creation'.

"The table is set because the fiscal house is in place for growth; the table is set because inflation is at historical low, less than four per cent. Our net international reserves are improving; our currency has stabilised; energy prices are down; telecoms prices are down by 90 per cent. Confidence is returning - the highest it's been since Independence - and we have the support of the multilaterals," noted Lee-Chin.

In making his case, Lee-Chin said that 15 growth retardants were identified as reasons for the country's anaemic economic performance over several years.

"These retardants have put the brakes on Jamaica's economic thrust, but now we have an opportunity to reignite that fire that drives strong economic growth," he said.

"We are working hard to gentrify Jamaica; we will gentrify Jamaica and we will be successful, because what we don't want to see is the natives of this country being displaced by foreign investors coming in and realising the opportunities here before we realise it," said Lee Chin.

 

Strong growth rates the country's only way out of malaise

 

In 1969, Jamaica recorded 5.41 per cent growth in the economy and that was bettered in 1970, when the growth rate jumped to 11.94 per cent, Michael Lee-Chin, chairman of the Economic Growth Council, said.

That economic high tide, he said, was the vehicle that many rode to financial freedom, and a return to those strong and effective growth rates was the country's only way out of its current malaise.

Jamaica has had weak economic performance for more than two decades, recording GDP growth of 0.5 per cent over 20 years, and an even worse 0.2 per cent the last 10 years.

"So the converse of my experience is the experience of all the graduates [of] today; not good. I got lucky. But unless we fix the problems now, this generation will never get the opportunities I got because the economy cannot support their ambitions," he said.

"So there's an imperative that we have to realise that growth is essential for the development for human potential to make sure that we have a society that is civil, a society that gives opportunities to all young persons, that if they work hard, if they have high standards, they can succeed and live a fulfilled life."

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com