THE EDITOR, Sir:
Mr Dennis Jones' letter ('Private sector must get off its butt') regarding the private sector sitting on the sidelines, published on September 7, 2013 is, in his words, "truly troubling", but it is close to reality.
The Government's failure to adhere to the previous International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme is an important aspect of private-sector sentiment. I would, however, suggest that two private sector-supported debt exchanges in three years, a mind-numbing government bureaucracy, and the ever-present suspicion of widespread corruption and cronyism, which nobody wants to tackle head-on, are far weightier concerns.
Generally, my private-sector colleagues believe that the Government is committed to the current IMF programme. Whether it has the capability to execute its many aspects remains to be seen, and its track record of execution is dismal.
Despite many, many promises to fix the bureaucracy, it remains. This alone would torpedo most countries' ability to attract investment, local or foreign, but when coupled with all of the other much-repeated barriers to investment - energy and security costs, crime, and low labour productivity - it is truly a deal-killer. Three years to grant the approvals for the new Marriott Courtyard hotel would be a joke if it wasn't so sad.
As an entrepreneur, I can testify in gory detail about the open suspicion about, and hostility towards, my own small business which I received from various government agencies, to the extent that this was a major factor in my closing it. Jamaica says it is open for business, but then stifles its potential customers with far too many barriers to entry to be taken seriously.
COMPLICATED TAX LAWS
As a qualified accountant in both the United Kingdom and the United States, I assert that the current tax laws are a huge barrier to investment because they are too difficult to understand and too time-consuming to comply with. Furthermore, does the Government really expect to collect taxes if it cannot provide an environment where people understand what they have to pay and then make it easy for them to do so?
Mr Jones refers to the "new social partnership". So just how are those Goat Islands stakeholder meetings going? Seriously, if the Government wants a vibrant private sector, stop discouraging us. Make it simple to start a business, execute tax and pension reform, get the justice system to work, and get out of the way.
I am not suggesting that the private sector has given up hope. However, only a fool would risk his capital on the boulevard of broken promises. The wait-and-see approach will tell us not only the extent to which the Government is committed to the myriad reforms it has signed on to, but also the atmosphere and spirit in which those reforms will be undertaken.
PAUL R. HANWORTH
CEO, Pan-Jamaican Investment Trust Ltd