Tue | Jan 19, 2021

Economic headache as recovery task force teams meet

Published:Monday | May 4, 2020 | 12:23 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Lenworth Fulton
Lenworth Fulton

Several committees of the Government’s Economic Recovery Task Force will this week meet for the first time as pressure grows on the Holness administration to reboot an economy stalled by a meltdown in commerce linked to COVID-19 restrictions.

The task force is a multisectoral task force to oversee Jamaica’s economic recovery from the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

A tough task lies ahead for the committee as figures published by two international agencies predict that the Jamaican economy will contract up to 5.6 per cent, according to forecasts by the International Monetary Fund.

And with heavy reliance on tourism as a foreign exchange earner, the uncertainty for the country is even more pronounced as many markets, including the United States and Canada, are still struggling to bring the coronavirus outbreak under control. Tourism players are bullish about ending restrictions in a month or so, The Gleaner understands.

Last week’s litany of prospective and announced lay-offs from major fast-food chains – with the popular brand Mother’s closing down for 30 days because of plunging sales – is believed to have added another wild revolution to an emotion roller-coaster that has left the Holness Cabinet torn: Does the Government gamble, as it telegraphed with the Length Man works project, with easing restrictions or face backlash if the pandemic worsens as cases mount?

ROCKY ROAD

Lenworth Fulton, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society and member of one of the 10 task force teams established to oversee the recovery programme, acknowledged the rocky road ahead in reopening the economy.

Jamaica’s farming sector has staggered with mass surpluses as shuttered hotels have forced stakeholders to scramble to find new channels to offload tens of thousands of pounds of produce.

“I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health in that they would have had their advisers and they would have done their forecasting.

“So we can only depend on them to get the best advice to us, but despite that, there is a risk ... it’s really as risk,” Fulton stressed, summing up the tightrope of uncertainty on which the Government is walking.

Some of the issues he is moving to have the committee consider include funding in grants and cheap loans to sectors.

“Some of the issues that we will have to look at include how we will find funding at reasonable interest rates and how we will be able to mix a grant and loan scheme,” Fulton told The Gleaner.

But even as the administration seems certain to press ahead with unshackling the economy, that move may prove counterintuitive. While some Caribbean neighbours appear to be past their worst, Jamaica’s infection numbers are continuing to climb - often in double digits.

The island recorded its ninth COVID-19 death yesterday.

The deceased is a 72-year-old male patient from the Corporate Area.

There were six new coronavirus cases announced yesterday, pushing the total to 469. All six cases are from the northeastern parish of St Mary, pushing its tally to 15.

There were also five more recoveries to date. This means that 38 patients have recovered in total.

Tourism & Aviation

• Edmund Bartlett (Chair)

• Adam Stewart

• John Byles

• Gordon Shirley

• Omar Robinson

Agriculture

• Audley Shaw Chair)

• Michael Lee-Chin

• William Mahfood

• Lenworth Fulton

Global Services

• Daryl Vaz (Chair)

• Gloria Henry

• Dianne Edwards

• Keith Duncan

Local Services

• Keith Duncan (Chair)

• Donovan Wignal

• Nadeen Spence

Construction & Infrastructure

• Daryl Vaz (Chair)

• Gordon Shirley

• Joe Matalon

• Ivan Anderson

Manufacturing

• Audley Shaw (Chair)

• William Mahfood

• Richard Pandohie

Covid-Resilient Jamaica

• Christopher Tufton (Chair)

• Helene Davis Whyte

• Chris Zacca

• Joe Matalon

• Lloyd Distant

• Nadeen Spence

New Economy

• Fayval Williams (Chair)

• Michael Lee-Chin

• Keith Duncan

• Lloyd Distant

• Dianne Edwards

Macro-Fiscal

• Nigel Clarke (Chair)

• Wayne Henry

• Joe Matalon

• Chris Zacca

• Alvin Wint

• Keith Duncan