Tue | Feb 18, 2020

Go for growth - Sector leaders look to today’s tabling of 2019-2020 Budget

Published:Thursday | February 14, 2019 | 12:26 AM
Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke.
In this March 2018 photo, Naasson Brown (right) and Maurice Edwards are hard at work at the Red Stripe factory. Business leaders are hoping the Budget will “encourage manufacturing, rather than discourage it”.

Business leaders across several industries have suggested that this year’s Budget should signal the Government’s commitment to growth-inducing strategies, low inflation, crime reduction, social intervention, and human-capital development.

The suggestions come as Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke is today scheduled to table the Estimates of Expenditure for the 2019-2020 fiscal year in the House of Representatives.

Last year, lawmakers approved a $773.7 billion Budget for the current fiscal year, which ends on March 31. That amount was increased to $802.5 billion by the time the Second Supplementary Estimates were presented last month.

Pointing to the continued reduction in the debt-to-GDP ratio, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica has suggested that increased fiscal space or funding should be available for investments in the physical and human capital of Jamaica.

Keith Duncan, vice-president of the PSOJ, says that there are myriad opportunities for the taking in the areas of agriculture, logistics, and tourism and the linkages to these sectors.

“The GOJ (Government of Jamaica) should provide focus around human-capital development in training and increasing the skill set of the labour force and to be able to drive the growth in these industries,” Duncan told The Gleaner.

He says that crime reduction, through continued resourcing and capacity building in the police force was “extremely important” but should be coupled with increased resources for social-intervention efforts “to continue rehabilitating inner-city communities and their citizens”.

John Levy, general secretary of the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees ( UCASE), has posited that the Budget should signal to workers that the Government is committed to a low-inflation model. “This must be reflected in the reality facing the workers,” he insists.

Levy suggests that the merging of the Fair Trading Commission and the Consumer Affairs Commission must not only be a financial consolidation, but a strengthening of the capacities of the entities, bearing in mind the size of the four-year wage agreement signed with the trade unions.

HOPE FOR growth-inducing Budget

Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association, says that his members are hopeful that “this will be a growth-inducing Budget”.

Seaga argues that for too long, successive administrations have ignored the manufacturing sector. He calls for initiatives “that will encourage manufacturing rather than discourage it”.

He suggests, too, that the special economic zone initiative has been neglected and urges the Government to give it more attention.

Before the Budget is presented, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen is expected to preside over the ceremonial opening of the Parliament and outline, in the Throne Speech, the plans and programmes that will be given priority by the Andrew Holness administration.

A number of pieces of proposed legislation that were announced by Allen in last year’s speech have not materialised. Among them is the Police Service Act, which is intended to replace the Constabulary Force Act and provide for the modernisation and transformation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force into a modern intelligence-led police service.