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Thumbs up to Economic Growth Council - Union wants it to keep door on logistics open

Published:Tuesday | November 15, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
O'Neil Grant

One of the country's major unions, the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), is raising questions about the role of Jamaica's logistics efforts in the plans of the Economic Growth Council (EGC).

"The areas that we see them focusing on, we do think, from the trade union movement, that they can grow the economy. I think there are some other areas that we (Jamaica) started and did quite a bit of work on - but they have not featured strongly in the EGC - such as the logistics-centred environment," JSCA president, O'Neil Grant told The Gleaner.

He was speaking following last week's signing of the declaration of intent by the EGC, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, and representatives of the trade union movement and private sectors. They symbolically agreed to the implementation of the plans.

Holness established the EGC in April with a mandate to drive economic growth by achieving five per cent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in four years - 2020-2021.

The council has submitted a proposal with eight goals: maintaining macroeconomic stability and pursuing debt-reduction strategies; improving citizen security; improving access to finance; pursuing bureaucratic reform; improving the business environment; building human capital; and catalysing the implementation of strategic projects.

Though the logistics focus may fall into "strategic projects", the Government has not been touting the benefits of the project like the previous People's National Party administration did. Numerous missteps culminating in the Krauck and Anchor saga appear to have affected the public's appetite for the projects. The multibillion-dollar investment with that investor never matertialise.


Commitment to build port


Nonetheless, there was work on special economic zones and a commitment to facilitate the building of a trans-shipment port by Chinese investors.

Grant insisted that the Government should push the logistics-centred economy. "I would love to see that that is a strong feature in anything going forward because quite a bit of work has been done."

"I can assume that they are not going to throw everything out the window. That they are going to be having some short-term plans that are going to yield the five in four - they are looking at tourism, they are looking at manufacturing, they are looking at creating certain jobs in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector," he said.

The union leader said his association, which represents more than 12,000 government workers, would work with the council. "People seem enthused," he said.

Working with the council was a key charge from the International Monetary Fund in a statement last Friday announcing its approval of a three-year US$1.64 billion StandBy Arrangement (SBA) "to support the authorities' continued economic reform agenda". That agreement replaces the current four-year extended fund facility that is due to expire in March next year.

The EGC, chairman, Michael Lee-Chin, had argued that the new deal would be important to prevent Jamaica 'backsliding' on reforms as well as give the "discipline" to carry-out out the work necessary to achieve the five in four.

The IMF said collaboration was key to achieving the targets. "Every effort is needed, in collaboration with development partners, to execute the structural growth reforms recommended by the authorities' Economic Growth Council. Resources will have to be redirected to combat crime and ensure national security. Easing of growth bottlenecks will facilitate stronger private sector job creation as the Government refocus and streamlines its role."

The Holness Cabinet has not yet signed off on the specifics of the EGC's proposals that the Government will pursue.

The prime minister stressed at the signing that the plans were "pro-poor" and would reach marginalised Jamaicans.