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Grand visions alone not enough

Published:Wednesday | October 22, 2014 | 12:24 PM

Grand visions alone are

not enough


For decades, we have been told that economic growth and fiscal discipline were the roads to a successful economy. Claude Clarke's Sunday Gleaner column 'The IMF's Political Challenge' (October 19, 2014) is not a new prescription.

Unfortunately, grand visions alone will not solve our economic dilemma. We have major barriers that are stifling our best efforts towards progress.

In 1960, we had a population of 1,600,000. By 2001, it had reached 2,640,000. The country now has almost twice as many mouths to feed since Independence.

Sadly, our economic growth rate has averaged a dismal one per cent over the past 40 years, partly because of external forces. High energy costs have almost crippled our economy. Demand for our dwindling bauxite reserves has been unreliable over the past two decades, and tourism - one of our main sources of foreign exchange - perpetually faces increasing competition, and our primary industries are incapable of meeting the demand for quality jobs.

Added to job shortages is a looming housing disaster. We have been told that 30 per cent of our population live in squatter settlements, doomed to a life of poverty and joblessness.

The public sector is incapable of absorbing this sea of job-seekers, even with the JEEP.

Successive governments struggling to stay within fiscally sound boundaries have been forced to borrow to keep the economy afloat. We have a debt burden we may never be able to repay, an economy floundering in debt, dependent on loans, remittances and prayers for survival in a boat stuck on the reef about to break apart.