Thu | Mar 22, 2018

Letter of the Day | Productivity key to economic growth

Published:Monday | June 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM

The EDITOR, Sir:

Jamaica had a right to celebrate this week when none other than the prime minister signalled to the control room to restart production at Alpart. Associated with this restart of operations are numerous benefits to the surrounding communities, the central region and Jamaica at large.

Inherent in the celebrations must be clarity of what is required to ensure that the operations are sustained over the long term and provide a reasonable return to its shareholders. All employees and the unions that represent them should fully understand the role they must play to not have the plant idle again. Unlike many shuttered operations, Alpart got a second opportunity and this is to be grasped with both hands.

I humbly suggest that a deep conversation should be immediately had on what productivity outcomes are required to ensure competitiveness. Employees, at all levels, must fully understand the role he or she is being asked to play and what is an acceptable output per hour of work.

Alpart should benchmark the most efficient operations in the world and expect comparable productivity levels from its Jamaican workforce. Each employee must know what constitutes unacceptable levels of absenteeism and the resultant negative consequences on the operations. Alpart should not expect to enjoy higher prices for alumina over prolonged periods as commodity prices swing wildly.


Challenge to growth targets


Without increased productivity, the existing investments will be at risk and the foreign direct investment levels we desire may never materialise. Without improvement in productivity, our economic growth targets will be challenged.

While multilateral agencies have some role to play on our journey of national development, let us be clear that unless we have a quantum change in productivity and fully understand what is considered a fair output for the salary earned, the Jamaica we all envision will remain elusive.