Wed | Jun 19, 2019

We are not growing satisfactorily - PM Holness

Published:Saturday | January 19, 2019 | 12:00 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses the audience at the launch of the Essex Valley Agriculture Development Project in St Elizabeth on Wednesday.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is expressing frustration with the economic condition of the country, arguing that despite doing everything correctly, the economy has not grown satisfactorily over the last three years.

"Last quarter, the out-turn was 1.8 per cent, the quarter before that was 2.2 per cent and for the past three years, we have not gotten over the two per cent hump," Holness said, while delivering the keynote address at the launch of the Essex Valley Agriculture Development project at the Lititz Primary School in St Elizabeth on Wednesday.

At the start of fiscal year 2016-2017, the Michael Lee-Chin-chaired Economic Growth Council declared that Jamaica would get to five per cent in four years by 2020. However, as several critical indices such as agriculture and mining recorded major reductions due to natural disasters, the growth target was revised downward.

"We can't say that we are growing until we have crossed two per cent. two per cent is really from our perspective, the threshold for take-off," said Holness. "We have been doing everything correctly. we have got high scores by all markers on the macro-fiscal issues and how we have handled debt, how we have handled foreign exchange, how we have handled public expenditure, and how we have handled taxation - all good marks on the macroeconomic level."

"Where we still have challenges would be at the microeconomic level, that is, the level of the firm, the level of the farmer, the level of the technocrats and bureaucrats in the regulatory environment, in the ministries, agencies, and departments," added Holness. "How fast are we working? how innovative are we? how responsive is the bureaucracy? that is where the challenge is."

Holness said that it was against the background of the challenges he outlined that the decision was taken to establish the Economic Growth Council.

"A large part of that requires a culture shift, and that is why we put in place the Economic Growth Council," said Holness.