Thu | Apr 27, 2017

PSOJ, Petrojam split on fuel rates again

Published:Friday | January 9, 2015 | 1:00 AM

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) President William Mahfood on Wednesday cancelled plans to release a joint statement with Petrojam because of what he labelled the disappointing reduction in fuel rates.

Mahfood told delegates at the launch of the Mona School of Business and Management's (MSBM) inaugural international conference at the University of the West Indies, Mona-Western Jamaica Campus, on Wednesday, that Petrojam's rollback at the pumps was much too insignificant to make a difference to business operators in the country.

"After we [had] agreed to a joint statement, I was later told that the reduction was $1, which was not enough," said Mahfood, stating that it was critical at this time for lower oil prices to be passed on to energy companies and consumers, among others, as this would result in the much-needed economic stimulus, which would help the country's ailing economy.

NEED TO CHANGE PERCEPTION

Batting for his members, while declaring it was time to shed the "us-against-them" perception, Mahfood noted they were not enemies of the State, but the expectation at the end of 2014 was that Petrojam's response would be in tandem with falling oil prices globally.

This was the PSOJ president's first official speech in his new capacity.

Going into 2015, he said he felt Jamaicans should not only have benefited from significantly reduced oil prices, but a lower crime rate, an improved legislative environment and improvements in public-sector rationalisation.

"We, however, continue to be affected by an ailing-but-slowly-recovering economy, which was, in turn, affected by conditions such as the drought [last year], and avoidable issues such as the widespread chikungunya virus, which many of us continue to be affected by, and which we at the PSOJ estimate cost the country at least 13 million man hours, and approximately J$7 billion in GDP."

He argued that as the country goes forward, the biggest risk factors will remain health and labour productivity.

JOBS THE FOCUS

The PSOJ president said the focus now must be on improving the country's business environment and creating more jobs as an immediate priority.

"We need to do more to continue working towards creating a business environment that is open and inviting to investors, and is also more efficient and effective," he argued.

Adding that the 27-place jump on the Doing Business ranking was a great start, and that it certainly sounded good on paper, he said the PSOJ understands it has a critical role to play in monitoring the policy environment to ensure that these lead to on-the-ground improvements, "and that our members, in particular, benefit from an improved business environment".

He lauded the MSBM for its foresight in hosting the two-day conference, which ends later today at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Montego Bay, St James.

The international conference has brought together some of the highest-profiled minds in business, investment and commerce. Leaders from a vast landscape are currently at the Montego Bay resort sharing their knowledge with scholars, researchers, entrepreneurs and other key players in public and private organisations.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com