Fri | Nov 16, 2018

Grow on land - Shaw eyeing economic expansion, says ministry will be targeting idle acres

Published:Saturday | March 31, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Audley Shaw

Audley Shaw, the new minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, has expressed strong optimism that his ministry can fuel the economy to realise the elusive high economic growth.

But according to the minister, it will be a serious task not just involving money.

"We can return to the days of six per cent growth. What we have to do is not just about money. Money on its own will not solve our problems. It requires much more than money. It requires methods, it requires plans, and it requires application," Shaw said in his address to ministry officials in New Kingston, earlier this week.

The minister said that five per cent growth in four years is achievable, arguing that there is capacity to achieve the target, which had been set out by the Economic Growth Council established by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

"This ministry, along with the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, is a key component, a key driver in the economic growth that we seek," Shaw declared.

According to Shaw, who recently held the finance portfolio, having done much work to stabilise the macroeconomic environment in the country, it was now time to address issues at the micro level.

"I am proud to be a part (of the ministry) and working with you to deal now with the micro-economy: helping our farmers; helping our small and medium-size businesses; helping our industry - manufacturers. So we have to focus on financing, technology transfers, on training," he said.

Highlighting the vast volume of idle land in the country, Shaw said that under his watch, he would be ensuring that these lands are put into production.

"We have no more time to lose. We cannot sit around anymore with bureaucracy from any quarter, including the quarter that manages government lands in this country.

"I am not, as your new minister, going to abide by driving up and down and flying over idle lands. I am sick and tired of it," the minister said.

He said that he would be meeting with Daryl Vaz, the minister with responsibility for land, along with several agencies to develop a master plan to put idle lands into production.

Since Shaw's appointment to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, JAMPRO, the Agro Investment Corporation, and the National Irrigation Commission have been shifted to that ministry.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com