IN 2008, with the global financial crisis at its height and Britain's economy having tanked, Prime Minister (PM) Gordon Brown made some interesting moves.
First, he looked at Brussels where Peter Mandelson, an ally of Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair and a man with whom he had strained relations, was the European Union's trade commissioner. Mr Brown drafted Mr Mandelson into his Cabinet as the minister with responsibility for business.
Paul Mayners, then chairman of the Guardian Media Group, was also brought into the government as financial services secretary at the Treasury. His job, essentially, was to ensure that stressed financial companies didn't break, and to be a conduit between the government and the city.
Brown also established a special ministerial council, something of an economic 'war cabinet', to be chaired by the PM himself and to meet twice per week, to keep the economy under review and to push through projects. They were serviced by a parallel group of top civil servants to ensure that policy was quickly translated into action.
Gordon Brown also drafted some business heavyweights to be 'business ambassadors' for Britain, with the task of helping to gee up the British economy and to encourage new investment. Among the people on that team were Sir John Bond, then chairman of the banking group, HSBC; Marcus Agius, who was at the time head of Barclays Bank; and Sir Victor Blank, then head of Lloyd TSB.
At the time, this newspaper commended Gordon Brown's strategy to Jamaica's then prime minister, Bruce Golding, whose government was beginning to grapple with a worsening economic problem, although they underestimated the depth of the crisis. Mr Golding did little. The idea, however, still has relevance for Jamaica.
Little Growth, Unsustainable Debt
Burdened by four decades of little growth and unsustainable debt, the island's economy is still to emerge from the recession induced by the global meltdown of more than five years ago. Indeed, the fiscal measures required by Jamaica's economic support programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has debt containment at its core, is essentially contractionary.
The policies and strategies that underpin the IMF programme are primarily in the ownership of the finance minister, to be executed by him. Yet, it is to that ministry to which people tend to look for initiatives for growth. The two are often contradictory.
It is in that context that we believe Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller should recalibrate her Government, using Gordon Brown's model, including the appointment of a refashioned minister/ministry with responsibility for business and investment. Perhaps a ministry of the economy or business.
We will be reminded that there is now someone who carries the portfolio for industry and commerce, including trade and investment promotion. There is need for more.
Our new minister/ministry, as in the case of Peter Mandelson, would carry great heft in the Cabinet. While he could initiate projects, the job would be substantially about aggressively driving a strategic vision for the economy and playing a coordinating role between the key economic ministries. He would ensure that growth-oriented projects get done, red tape is eliminated, and that Jamaica, as far as possible, leverage its global relationships, including those afforded by bilateral and multilateral agreements.
There has to be a new approach to this matter of business and growth.
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