Without jobs, there's no hope - PM
Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
Western Bureau: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has declared that the two-day International Monetary Fund (IMF) High-Level Caribbean Forum on Unlocking Economic Growth, which got under way yesterday in Montego Bay, St James, has come at an opportune time based on the nation's great need for economic growth.
"Achieving appreciable, sustainable and equitable economic growth in Jamaica, coupled with job creation, must be the prize for the extreme sacrifices our people have been making in our efforts to put our economy on the right track once and for all," Simpson Miller said, as she addressed the forum's opening session.
"I say this because at this moment, there can be no greater imperative for us here in Jamaica, or for our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean region, than the great urgency of economic growth," the prime minister added.
Simpson Miller, however, pointed out that ordinary growth by itself won't be enough to significantly impact lives and improve the standard of living of most Jamaicans.
"The growth we seek must be robust, strong and sustained … . The growth we are working for must be equitable and inclusive," said Simpson Miller. "We are going for growth with job creation … . We are encouraging the rise of a new business-owning class to include all Jamaicans. Without jobs and successful business ownership, our people will have no hope."
In looking at some of the factors that are inimical to growth at this time, Simpson Miller said the high cost of energy was arguably the largest single deterrent, noting that it was hampering crucial sectors such as mining and manufacturing.
"To put in context the importance of this sector to our economy, in respect of the mining sector, there has been the closure of two million tons of annual alumina capacity since 2009," the prime minister said. "This is equivalent to US$700 million of gross annual export earnings. This closure is directly attributable to the high cost of energy to the sector. The high price of energy has also had a significant impact on the disposable incomes of individuals and businesses."
In speaking to the forum's theme, 'Unlocking Economic Growth' - organised around three areas: energy, tax regimes for investment, and financial-sector resilience - the prime minister said all three areas were being addressed by her administration.
"All three substantive areas are being addressed by my administration as an integral part of our economic-reform programme," Simpson Miller said. "Through this programme, we are boldly taking a number of measures to put our economy on the desired path to growth."
She added: "My administration is fully aware that we all - private sector and public sector - have to do many new things and approach traditional matters in new ways to get better results, to grow our economy, and to achieve sustainable development."