Creating growth and forward momentum
By Mark Kerr-Jarrett , Guest Columnist
I listened keenly to the address made Sunday evening by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and was encouraged by the projects and programmes the Government plans to engage in this year.
I would like to put forward for consideration the following 15 ideas and activities that I think we could implement immediately in order to create growth and forward momentum in the economy:
1. Stimulate the economy by using the National Housing Trust (NHT) employer contributions as seed capital to regularise the informal settlements. NHT employer contributions gross approximately $8 billion to $10 billion per annum.
2. Use NHT employer contributions to seed new housing developments to support the growth of the information and communication technology (ICT) and tourist sector. Locate people where the jobs will be and prevent further squatting in the future.
3. Implement the suggestion by Aubyn Hill and James Goran to give foreign investors residency in return for a minimum level of investment in the country, thus capitalising on the recent tax legislation in France and other nations.
4. Increase tax compliance by hiring professionals to seek out and audit existing tax evaders by incentivising them with a 50 per cent commission on the first assessment for all new accounts brought into the system. We should aim at a minimum 85 per cent compliance rate. This could have a positive effect on not just revenue, but on our debt-to-GDP ratios, which will be an advantage in future debt-refinancing negotiations.
5. The Government should immediately make the financing available to complete the FINSAC enquiry report so that we do not go down the same road again, as we will not have documented or learnt from our past mistakes. The FINSAC experience has adversely affected private sector's willingness to take risk and, therefore, invest in the local economy.
6. Implement bankruptcy legislation and regulations as a matter of urgency to protect business persons and entrepreneurs in the event of a bump in the road. Business failure, which is part of the learning process, should not be catastrophic. No serious new local investment will happen without it.
7. Implement the mandatory retirement of all public servants over 65 years old and rehire on contract if they are needed in the short term.
8. Implement an early-retirement option for all public servants 55 years and older.
9. Dust off the Orane Report on Government Waste and Inefficiency and implement all relevant portions with immediate effect.
10. Enter into negotiations with ICT operators to hire qualified public servants so as to minimise social impact of public-sector reform and downsizing.
11. Implement a central procurement agency for government supplies: stationery, tyres, light bulbs, so that they can be bought in bulk from the manufacturer, thus getting benefit from the economies of scale. Put the Jamaica Defence Force Quartermaster Stores in charge of it, to minimise corruption.
12. Auction all the old state-owned vehicles now sitting and rotting in government compounds to farmers and other entrepreneurs, for book value. A good example is the National Water Commission Bevin Avenue compound in Montego Bay, where numerous vehicles, from cars to tanker trucks, sit rotting when they could be put to productive use.
13. Reduce import tax on all new vehicles which are more fuel-efficient and require less inventory of spare parts, thus reducing our oil consumption and FX requirements.
14. Seriously consider coal-power generation, as all the existing industrialised countries built their economies on coal: Europe, North America, and now China. Once we have established a strong and self-sufficient commercial/industrial economy, we can consider the luxury of the more expensive renewable-power sources. But our first priority must be the production of inexpensive and globally, competitively priced electricity.
15. Implement municipal courts and police departments in all parish capitals for the enforcement of all the Public Order and Public Health Ordinances. This will enhance tax compliance and revenue to the local authorities and enforce the rule of law at the street level, creating a more civil and disciplined society.
These are some of my thoughts and, hopefully, worthy of further consideration.