Growth joke - Opposition taunts Government for abandoning economic targets
Ripping into the Andrew Holness administration for discarding its much-talked-about target of five per cent gross domestic product growth in four years, Opposition Spokesman on Finance and Planning Mark Golding said the country was now left to wonder whether it was a serious target or "just a grand public-relations scheme".
In his maiden contribution to the Budget Debate in Parliament yesterday, Golding suggested that the Government's model of establishing an Economic Growth Council (EGC) comprising "mostly of very wealthy businessmen" to drive economic growth was not inclusive and lacked the input of diverse stakeholders.
"We see the drive for growth as part of a broader vision of national development involving the active participation by all stakeholders who make up our society - the small businesses, the farmers, the trade unions, the transport operators, the public service, the churches, the entertainers who are so influential over the minds of our youths," said Golding.
He told his parliamentary colleagues that he was alarmed that the Government had significantly adjusted downward its medium-term growth forecast, "confirming that the 'five-in-four' was never a real target".
The September 2016 Fiscal Policy Paper projected growth rates of 2.2 per cent, 3.3 per cent and 3.2 per cent for the fiscal years 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-2020. "Those projections were based on the path that we had forged for the economy," Golding asserted.
However, he pointed to the fiscal policy paper tabled by Finance Minister Audley Shaw last week, which has slashed those projections to 0.9 per cent, 2.4 per cent and 2.1 per cent, respectively.
"This substantial reduction in the Government's official growth forecast, in stark contrast to the imaginary 'five-in-four', demands an explanation from the Government. Sadly, none has been forthcoming. On behalf of the people, I ask again: Was the 'five-in-four' just a public-relations stunt, or was it a pipe dream?"
The shadow finance minister charged that, in its two years in office, the administration has significantly missed its growth targets and the highly touted EGC and the "massive bureaucratic structure called the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation have been yielding very disappointing results. That ministry should be called the Ministry of Everything and Nothing".
With the Government blaming its missed growth targets, in part, on heavy rainfall, Golding noted that Jamaica was spared any major weather-related shocks in 2017.
"This underscores the lack of resilience in our economy to withstand even mildly unusual weather conditions," Golding said. "Indeed, for the whole of calendar year 2017, the Jamaican economy only grew by 0.5 per cent, which is significantly lower than in 2015 and 2016. This underperformance is also in stark contrast to world growth of over three per cent, and growth in the United States and the Eurozone of about 2.5 per cent in 2017," he added.