Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
STAKEHOLDERS IN western Jamaica say Government must now provide the nation with a comprehensive growth package to complement the measures announced by Prime Minister Portia Simpson and her finance minister, Dr Peter Phillips, earlier this week.
In a broadcast to the nation, the prime minister and Phillips called for the financial sector and the entire country to support the measures, described as extraordinary, which are being employed to address the critical components required to meet the IMF (International Monetary Fund) agreement and the island's Debt Reduction Programme.
"The country has been diagnosed, and I felt that what we got (Monday) night was the anaesthetics, the surgery is to come," said Montego Bay businessman Mark Hart. "This is just the tip of the iceberg, and is among several things that must be done to address the problem."
Concerned about production
Phillips on Tuesday announced a raft of tax measures to increase revenues and assist the country in better managing its $1.7 billion debt.
"I am very concerned about the productive sector, especially the hotel industry ... . There is nowhere in the world where one is able to tax inputs and still be able to compete," stated Hart.
Richard Bourke, president of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he had hoped for more details on the IMF deal.
"I have not yet analysed it fully, but I expected more than just another announcement of a debt exchange," said Bourke.
However, businessman Godfrey Dyer said he was not surprised and expressed the view that a growth package is crucial at this time if the nation is to succeed.
"It is a tough one, but when one looks at everything, one wonders what else they could have done," Dyer told The Gleaner on Monday. "But unless something positive comes about growth, you might have a JDX3 next ... so it needs to be complemented with a solid growth package."
Step in right direction
Davon Crump, the president of Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, endorsed the stance taken by Phillips, arguing that the establishment of a coordinating and implementing unit was a step in the right direction.
"We are encouraged by the measures announced by the finance minister that will be taken to ensure a difference with the programme this time around," said Crump. "The establishment of a coordinating and implementing unit and the economic programme oversight committee to monitor compliance and progress of ministries and agencies is the way to go."
He added: "We are not surprised by the announcement of another debt-reduction programme as we recognise that these are unusual times."
However, the chamber boss was somewhat wary about the elimination of discretionary waivers, which he thinks does not support sound investment programmes.
Hotelier Jason Henzell commended the finance minister for the approach taken as, according to him, there was nothing else that could be done.