Fri | Dec 8, 2023

Vision 2030 out of sight?

Experts call for consensus, human development to hit First-World targets

Published:Monday | August 15, 2022 | 12:08 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Adrian Stokes
Dr Adrian Stokes
Dr Wesley Hughes
Dr Wesley Hughes

With growing consensus on adjusting the lofty Vision 2030 targets as Jamaica charts developed-country status, Dr Adrian Stokes, a development economist, has argued that it will be very difficult to move the needle on those goals without addressing...

With growing consensus on adjusting the lofty Vision 2030 targets as Jamaica charts developed-country status, Dr Adrian Stokes, a development economist, has argued that it will be very difficult to move the needle on those goals without addressing the island’s human-capital crisis.

Vision 2030’s overarching goals are focused on ensuring that Jamaicans are empowered to achieve their fullest potential; that the society is secure, cohesive, and just; the economy prosperous; and the natural environment healthy.

Stokes observed that most of the country’s social and developmental challenges are rooted in low human capital formation. He said that in most successful countries, there is a well-developed educational and training system that transforms young people into globally competitive citizens. It is those citizens, said Stokes, who provide the muscle to broaden the productive base and fuel inclusive economic development.

“With limited financial resources, it is clear the country needs to radically realign its priorities to make human capital development its major focus over the next eight years if we are to have a realistic chance of transforming our country for the better,” Stokes said in response to questions from The Gleaner.

“... Jamaica has an ongoing crisis with its young males that require urgent and sustained focus,” he added.

In his report on the reform of education in Jamaica, Professor Orlando Patterson highlighted that a third of the country’s students at the primary level leave school illiterate. Further, he noted that 56 per cent were unable to write, and 58 per cent had difficulty identifying information in simple English language sentences.

When he reviewed secondary education, Patterson found that of the students who sit the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams, fewer than half pass five or more subjects in a single sitting. And even among those, fewer than 30 per cent can count mathematics and English language among those subjects.

Patterson said that Jamaica’s education sector is in “a crisis of poor performance and an organisational crisis”.

Commenting on Jamaica’s prospects of attaining its four main goals in its Vision 2030 quest, Stokes said that Jamaica needs to reformulate the strategic initiatives supporting the national objectives. That is besides the island making progress in key areas such as macroeconomic stability and improving the ‘ease of doing business’.

Key outcomes such as security and safety are at risk of not being met, said Stokes.

With murders trending 3.3 per cent higher up to August 2022 than for the corresponding period last year – 909 compared to 880 – the concerns over Jamaica’s status as one of the bloodiest on Earth will not abate.

Stokes has urged various stakeholders to work on obtaining a long-term consensus on security – a sentiment mirroring the prime minister’s statement last week.

“The fundamentals of our security arrangements as a country cannot be dependent on political fortunes,” Stokes said.

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang conceded in March that if crime and violence is not brought under control, it would threaten prosperity and economic growth as well as derail the Government’s ability to meet its obligations to pay suitable wages or carry out infrastructural developments.

Questioned on whether there were key errors in formulating Vision 2030, Stokes reasoned that perhaps the plan included too many strategic objectives for a country that is constrained in its capacity.

“This also creates communication challenges since I doubt many Jamaicans appreciate what are the major Vision 2030 goals and how these are to be achieved. So Vision 2030, I suspect, creates an execution challenge given its very wide scope and our limited execution capacity as a country,” he said.

Stokes also asserted that missing national consensus on key initiatives is a major problem. For example, he said that security requires certain legislative initiatives that are difficult to implement without a broad national agreement.

Former head of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr Wesley Hughes, said that national development is a long-term, complex process that requires, among other things, dedicated, passionate leadership at various levels.

“Vision 2030 is an attempt to capture and synthesise the dreams and aspirations of the key stakeholders in the Jamaican society. That is what the four goals and outcomes represent. But goals have to be backed up by solid implementation, and this is where there is a clear historic deficit across all sectors.”

Hughes said it is well documented by the PIOJ that the country is behind in the attainment of the deep desire for “security and prosperity”. He said much of this can be traced to historical deficits and the many shocks and volatility the country had experienced since pre-Independence.

“The emergence of new shocks (climate change, pandemics) will push back the attainment of the medium- and long-term goals,” Hughes added.

Noting that the Jamaican leadership and people can rise to meet the goals and targets in Vision 2030, Hughes said they are still valid and will require a rededication to a recalibrated, long-term plan.

“If the planners want a radical change, it would be best done with broad consensus from key stakeholders, the way Vision 2030 was originally done,” Hughes said.

In November 2021, the Jamaica Information Service reported that Prime Minister Andrew Holness had expressed confidence in Jamaica’s ability to achieve the goals of the Vision 2030 national development plans.

“With the combination of a stronger and more diverse economy, innovation and more empowered populace, good business environment and ecosystem, Jamaica will thrive. There are still challenges but we are on a good course to achieving Vision 2030,” Holness said at the time.

“Jamaica is on its way to having a healthy, educated population, strong economic infrastructure, and technology-enabled society to support by investment as well as public and private partnerships.”

Early in 2021, current PIOJ head Dr Wayne Henry reported that Jamaica had achieved or exceeded 36 per cent of its targets under Vision 2030.

Henry, who in February 2021 reported on 11 years of the plan’s implementation up to 2019-20, said that gains have been made across all four goals.