How would you grow the economy?
The Jamaican economy has been suffering from low or no growth for decades. In response to this, we asked five Jamaicans of varying ages and occupations to suggest five ideas each, on how to grow the Jamaican economy. This is what they had to say:
Dainalyn Swaby, communication coordinator:
- One way of growing the economy is to focus on growing agribusinesses. Agriculture is a critical sector within our economy and many small scale farmers and agribusinesses lack the financial support to expand. There are some models being used internationally, such as those by the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which is a bank for the poor. We can adopt some of their ideas in order to facilitate lending to the sector in order to expand farm operations, improve production, and ultimately, growth in the economy.
- Our country needs to place greater emphasis on exports. Focus on increasing productivity.
- An improved educational structure will also go a long way. We need to equip young people with more marketable/technical skills.
- Our Government needs to create a more favourable investment climate for young entrepreneurs.
- More emphasis needs to be placed on rural development. Improve the community-based organisations' capacity to leverage resources.
Kiefer Sutherland, visual designer and CEO of Direvual Studio and Visual Wear
- Entrepreneurship is the best way to grow Jamaica's economy. More people should be encouraged to start their own businesses, and a good way to do this is to make the process of acquiring loans easier. This will in turn create jobs, which will then improve the economy.
- There needs to be more work in the food and agriculture departments. Foreigners really enjoy Jamaican food, so exporting more of it should be on the agenda for growth.
- The Government needs to do more for those in the tourism sector. Do more to educate Jamaicans about the proper way to deal with tourists because many of foreigners feel intimidated by locals when they visit, and so they don't come back.
- Reduce crime. It does not matter how many great ideas we come up with. The fact is, we need more investment in the country, and the only way to do this is if people are not afraid to invest. This is not just about foreign investment, but I look at certain places downtown and many people are unemployed, buildings are dilapidated, etc. Companies want to go there, but they are afraid of extortion, so the people there are unknowingly hurting themselves. When you demand extortion money, you drive businesses way. Do away with crime and then everything else can work.
- We need more technology colleges. More people need to get involved in technical careers. There is a saturation of traditional careers, and so many young people are unemployed. We have enough doctors and lawyers, so much so that many are unemployed or paid very little. People need to be aware of this so that they can choose careers that are in demand now.
Cloz'en Ellis, quality control manager:
- Increase General Consumption Tax and do away with income tax and other statutory deductions. Businesses should be made to pay a larger amount and individuals pay a smaller amount. In my opinion, if that happens, there would be a greater compliance from tax payers.
- Incentives and greater tax breaks for young people willing to get involved in farming. We need to eat what we grow and grow what we eat
- The Government needs to put in more effort to regularise small business enterprises
- Old warnings of two is better than too many should be brought back. There needs to be a more conscious effort to minimise the households of the poor.
- Revenue collection agencies need to be fully manned. Use National Youth Service students to collect the well needed revenue in these agencies.
Larren Peart, managing director of Blue Dot Data Intelligence Ltd
- Facilitate easier access to financing for early-stage entrepreneurs/MSMEs: Currently, traditional banks don't have the appetite or the framework that allows them to provide financing to early-stage entrepreneurs who operate in the non-traditional sectors such as technology. A company in manufacturing, for example, will have equipment that can be used as collateral. A tech company, on the other hand, will primarily have software and IP as assets which can't be used to collateralise a loan. MSMEs are the true drivers of economic growth
- Marijuana: I think legalising marijuana has the potential to be our greatest earner of foreign exchange and boost to our economy, and we won't have to reinvent the wheel. The template is there from places like Colorado, and we can be 10 times greater than all these other places who have a head start on us because they don't have as much cultural appeal as we do.
- Improve literacy and education: An educated population is essential for economic growth in every country.
- Make it easier to do business: Corruption, high business taxes, outdated laws and policies and just overall red tape make things difficult for Jamaican entrepreneurs. For example, in order for me to renew my company TCC, I have to visit National Housing Trust, National Insurance Scheme and HEART offices to get clearance letters, which I then take to the tax office. Public-sector inefficiency is stifling.
- Reduction in Crime: This goes without saying, like education, it cannot be overstated and emphasised enough.
Anya-Jaye Hamilton, St Mary High School student
I am a teenager, so a lot of people believe that I do not know what is good for my country. Young people are leaving Jamaica in droves after high school because they do not believe that they can have a prosperous life here. I am not one of those people. I think if the Government does the following five things, our situation will improve.
- We have a high number of illiterate or barely educated people in our country. This means that many do not even understand the basics of economics, so they do not see the importance of things such as taxes or entrepreneurship. It is important to get all children in schools to learn, but it is important to focus on adults who can barely read. Create institutions for adult education. These should be either be free and staffed by volunteers, or adults should be made to pay a minimal fee, which should then be used to maintain the facility.
- Agriculture and mining are very important areas for growth. We study agriculture at my school but many high schools do not teach it. That is a big mistake. We need to learn to grow our own food. Every school should either have a little garden or a small area for planting.
- Export more consumer goods and import less. We export at such a high rate in order to get cheaper food from abroad, that our economy is left in shambles. We need to consume more of what we have here.
- Not every child needs a degree. This is more devastating to our economy than people realise. Encourage more people to take the technical route. So many young people are left in debt because of degrees and lack of jobs. How can they contribute to the economy when they cannot get jobs?
- Reduce the size of the government, then use the extra money to invest in all of the above.
- Sasahkay Fairclough