Growth & Jobs | Jamaica must leapfrog to economic development
Executive director of the Economic Growth Council (EGC), Senator Aubyn Hill, has said Jamaica cannot afford to incrementally grow if it wants to achieve economic progress.
He was speaking late last week at the third in a series of conversations about education at The Mico University College in Kingston, which was organised with support from The Jamaica National Group. The conversation was centred on the theme 'Education and Training: Key Drivers for Economic Growth and Job Creation'.
"I am saying to you that we are going to have to do some leapfrogging, if we are going to get to where we have to go," he underlined.
Using the introduction of Digicel, with support from the National Commercial Bank (NCB), at the start of the millennium as an example, the former NCB boss pointed to how the rapid growth of access to cell phones impacted the development of the country. He said prior to Digicel, it took Jamaicans as much as 10 to 15 years to get a landline; however, with the competition provided by Digicel in the mobile phone subsector, the masses were able to access phones and not only a privileged few.
"If you cannot leapfrog, you cannot do anything really exceptional," he said; and maintained that "some things you cannot achieve by 'incrementalising' ... you have to leapfrog."
Hinged on knowledge
However, he said the rapid development Jamaica wants to achieve must be hinged on knowledge.
"Knowledge is to prosperity what Digicel's investment was to telecommunications in Jamaica," he declared. "It is not raw materials and minerals. Japan doesn't have any!" he emphasised.
The senator said Jamaica needs to strengthen its investment in science and engineering, and propel itself to a point where it can use its highly skilled workforce as a bargaining tool to attract investment. Using Costa Rica as an example, he said Jamaica can leverage its expert workforce to attract investors, instead of offering them tax breaks or tax incentives.
"One of the things the IMF is saying is, don't bother with those waivers that you give to investors. If the business is so good, why are you waiving? Why are you taking poor Jamaicans' money, because when you waive you are not getting the taxes, and you are giving to rich investors," he explained.
"We must train people so (that) when they come to this country they don't worry to ask for waivers, because we have the best waiver we can give them, our graduates..." he noted.