Aubyn Hill, financial gleaner COLUMNIST
Many people who should know better still, apparently, do not get it.
What don't they get? The fact that part of the goodies associated with the depreciation of a country's currency - the increase in exports - is not going to happen overnight, and will not happen at all if that country does not take immediate, drastic and radical steps to increase its hard-currency earnings from exports.
In the case of Jamaica where our economic policy, such as it existed, seemed to have been built almost entirely around the tourism sector to the exclusion of the entertainment, sports, manufacturing, farming and agro-processing activities, do we now expect to gain the benefits from export businesses in which we have not invested or encouraged?
Indeed, in the case of manufacturing, we as a people, businesses, financiers and government have stifled and almost killed our manufacturing sector.
Our relatively wimpish and appeasing approach to CARICOM has also helped to damage our manufacturing sector.
How well the relentlessly clear, even strident, tone of Doreen Frankson's passionate voice on behalf of her colleagues in the manufacturing fraternity echo in our ears today, from the very early years of the new millennium.
So, too, has Omar Azan been single-minded and focused on getting better and helpful policies to the fledgling few manufacturing businesses in Jamaica.
Who can forget how forcefully Ms Frankson confronted the CEO of Jamaica's then biggest bank and the alliance she forged with the then second-largest bank - now largest by assets - in order to get help for businesses in the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) of which she was president?
In spite of the quite considerable political and advocacy weight she wielded, relatively little was done by our financiers and governments to assist manufacturing. So how do we now expect to gain automatic and immediate positive results from the depreciation of the Jamaican dollar?
Less we forget, our governments through the 1990s and beyond encouraged our financiers to completely disregard manufacturing and most other productive economic activities by paying these financial houses and private investors exorbitant interest rates - government's voluntary submission to exaggeratedly usurious rates of interest.
These phenomenally high interest rates forced private investors out of the borrowing market. It also bankrupted many, and allowed banks and other financial houses to treat as completely irrelevant the financing requests of manufacturers, as well as those engaged in entertainment, sports and many who wanted to venture into agro-processing.
Bankers, for the most part, saw Ms Frankson and her JMA members as high risk, too much hard work, bothersome, and as too small clients - compared to the Government of Jamaica which was gorging them with high interest-earning cash - to give of their attention and time.
INABILITY TO EXPORT
Many of us argue as if the depreciation of the Jamaican dollar is obliged to wait on the ability of the economy to export to earn hard currency. It is not so obliged and, clearly, it will not wait.
Since the value of a nation's currency is directly linked, especially in the medium and long term, to the level of the country's productivity, the products it exports, its ability to attract foreign direct investments (FDI), and in Jamaica's and many emerging markets' cases, the inflow of remittances - we in Jamaica have been seriously underperforming, except, relatively, in the area of remittance inflows.
Confidence in an economic plan with a clear direction and capable growth organiser and leader is also vital. We have no growth plan and no designated growth driver. Many of our political leaders, and others, do not understand the role confidence in an economy's ability to perform well and produce growth plays in upholding the country's currency.
These days, FDIs have been replaced by comparatively meagre net inflows from the IMF and related multilateral lending agencies.
The euphoria with which the IMF's Extended Fund Facility agreement was met in some political circles has given way to the hard reality that it is really a Band-Aid, and unless we encourage more investment dollars - not more loans - the poor Jamaican dollar is going to continue to weaken against the hard or firmer currencies of our trading partners.
Large investment dollars are promised from China. We wait to see.
Apart from the absence of an economic growth agenda and an agenda enforcer, our Government dissipates confidence by the slow pace it has adopted to economic infrastructural changes in terms of tax and pension reform, implementing personnel, IT and procedural reforms - growing and cutting as necessary - in order to make government activities more efficient, as well as business and profit-enhancing, and friendly and helpful to citizens and businesses.
Our leaders must educate our bureaucrats, especially the entrenched and sometimes partisan ones, that their behaviour also affects the value of our Jamaican dollar.
NOT BUYING IMPORTED STRAWBERRIES
One of the arguments I have put forth is that our currency will respond to market forces, and the Bank of Jamaica's actions to suck up Jamaican dollars to staunch the buying of foreign currencies is also part of 'market' activities.
Also, the depreciation of the dollar will affect local buying behaviour and actually lead to the purchasing of fewer imports. This is happening. Notice the announcements for used-car establishments.
Importantly, the high-end car dealers are watching carefully the number of cars sitting in their parking lots before they import more. Even banks are said to have parking lots filled with repossessed high-end expensive cars.
Just this week, a well-paid middle-level financial executive in a very large organisation told me she picked up a packet of imported strawberries in the supermarket, was quite startled by the very high price and put it back and bought some local fruits.
Jamaican seasonal fruits, vegetables and tubers of all types, including sweet- and soursops, pomegranate, mangoes, naseberries, cantaloupe, honeydew and water melons, as well as local tomatoes, avocadoes, cauliflower, broccoli, yams, sweet potatoes, cassava and daschine, all now find their way into many of our Jamaican diets. So it should be. Let's forego imported rice and flour.
The announcement this week that one of our tertiary institutions, which is supported by taxpayers' money, received a waiver of J$6.4 million on a 2013 Land Rover, that the University Council got J$3.4 million waived for a 2012 Pajero, and a national footballer was granted a J$2-million waiver on a fancy Porsche Panamera, forces one to think those on the public purse and others who want to own these high-end and fancy vehicles should pay full taxes.
These waivers and those given directly to parliamentarians and government officials should go. That move will also help the weakened Jamaican dollar.
Aubyn Hill is the CEO of Corporate Strategies Limited and was an international banker for more than 25 years.Email: email@example.comTwitter: @HillAubynFacebook:facebook.com/Corporate.Strategies