The malaise gripping the Jamaican economy has started to contaminate Jamaican businesses and markets, but one private-sector leader is refusing to join the pack.
Don Wehby, chief executive officer of GraceKennedy Limited, says businesses cannot allow themselves to be paralysed by the lack of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying there was work to be done to create economic value.
"The private sector has a significant role to play in moving Jamaica forward. We need to take the lead as it relates to a growth agenda. We need to stop being forecasters of doom, and acting so as to avert any crisis that lay down the road," Wehby said Wednesday in a luncheon speech to the board of directors of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC).
"We need to start investing as a private-sector group and stop waiting on an IMF deal. Let's find a way to see what opportunities there are, even at this tough time," he said.
Wehby reminded the group that the widely discussed and well-anticipated IMF agreement does not exist in a vacuum.
"What we need to remember is that it is not just signing an IMF agreement, but we need to consider what will come next. Signing the IMF agreement might sound like a saviour but after the agreement is signed that is when the real work will begin ... and we need to prepare for that," he said.
Past president of the chamber, Milton Samuda, agreed with Wehby, pointing out that "whether or not we get an agreement in place we still have to focus on growing out of the current economic conundrum".
Wehby complimented the Government for the work on pension reform, public-sector transformation and the White Paper on tax reform tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.
However, he reminded the business group that issues such as the bureaucracy and political divisions still needed to be tackled.
"The problem with the management of our economy is that we are living and have been living above our means for many years ... the only way to cover that deficit is to borrow or print money. None of these options are desirable for any economy that must grow," he told the JCC meeting.
In order to get the desired conditions necessary for the IMF agreement and a path for sustainable growth, Wehby said certain reforms are necessary such as comprehensive tax policy and administrative reform, a more efficient public sector - including wages as a percentage of GDP - and pension reform.
These issues, he said are "well talked about" but nothing has been done about them.
"Any political party that implements these reform measures will lose political capital. But while there may be severe fallout in the short term, I believe the long-term benefits would outweigh that. All of these reforms need a bi-partisan approach, but after 50 years do we have the political maturity to implement these measures so that our country can grow?" he asked.