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LETTER OF THE DAY - Innovate to renovate Jamaica

Published:Monday | November 12, 2012 | 12:00 AM


In 2009, a study conducted by the Jamaica Productivity Council indicated that the country was lagging behind its Latin American counterparts. The think tank reported that from 1972 to 2007, worker productivity declined by 1.3 per cent yearly. This study coincided with a report compiled by the Inter-American Development Bank, which placed Jamaica at the bottom of the pile.

Since 2012, things have remained the same where worker productivity is concerned. Therefore, we cannot attract quality foreign investment when Jamaica has a poor investment climate and declining productivity levels.

Further, Jamaica cannot improve competitiveness when both the Government and the private sector have neglected research and development. R&D will boost innovation, and innovation attracts investors, and investors create jobs. For example, R&D spending accounts for 3.3 per cent of Sweden's GDP. So it should not surprise us that Sweden was ranked fourth on the recently released World Economic Forum competitiveness list, and the countries which beat Sweden like Singapore and Finland all spend big on R&D.

The Jamaican economy will only grow when innovation occurs and productivity increases.

In addition, the World Bank and other multilaterals have indicated that Jamaica has a tax-incentive programme which only benefits conglomerates. So in order to reduce losses, the Government should create appraisal mechanisms for companies which would like to benefit from this system.

Additionally, there should be a clause which stipulates that all beneficiaries of the system must spend a fixed amount on worker productivity and research and development. Furthermore, the Government should create a workforce development agency similar to organisations in Singapore and Australia. This organisation will be responsible for enhancing the competitiveness of employees and partnering with sector leaders and multilateral organisations to continuously upgrade the skills of workers.

Second, the Government should assist in the proliferation of new technologies by creating an Industrial Research Programme which will provide businesses with information, thereby keeping them abreast of new technological developments, especially small businesses.

However, it is quite unfortunate that the current administration is bankrupt of ideas. For example, Dr Peter Phillips recently announced a tax-incentive programme that won't attract quality investment. The private sector should only create jobs when there is a demand, and not to meet social objectives. The Simpson Miller administration's pie-in-the-sky initiatives like JEEP will not work.