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The Exchange | EPOC co-chairman calls for more investment in human capital

Published:Sunday | January 20, 2019 | 12:00 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer
Economist Mark Ricketts (second right) responds to a question from moderator Neville Graham (left). Listening are panellist Allison Peart (second left), president of the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica, and Keith Duncan, co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee and group chief executive officer of The JMMB Group.

Keith Duncan, co-chairman of the Economic Oversight Committee (EPOC), has asserted that although Jamaica achieved some level of macroeconomic stability last year, investment in human capital is necessary to move Jamaica forward in 2019.

"We have to prepare them. Therefore, while we fix our infrastructure and roll out the capital, we have to now look at the people, train them up, get them ready for the economy, for the investors that are going to be coming, and seeing Jamaica as an investment destination," Duncan said.

He was speaking last Wednesday during the Financial Gleaner/Jamaica News Network forum 'The Exchange,' held at The University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters in St Andrew.

Economist Mark Ricketts and American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica President Allison Peart were also participants.

Duncan, who is also CEO for The JMMB Group, said although the country's unemployment rate is at a record low of 8.4 per cent, the quality of the jobs being created leaves much to be desired.

"There are jobs that are being created, but low value-added jobs and low-paying jobs ... [Having achieved] macroeconomic stability, now we have the fiscal space open, we must now invest in our human capital," said Duncan.

Ricketts held similar views. However, he pointed out that sectors which offer mainly low-paying jobs also play a role in the development of the economy.

"I hear all the time, sometime we put down this BPO (business process outsourcing). If you look at individuals who are leaving school, a lot of them are just entry-level individuals. BPO, to me, is the greatest thing that has happened in Jamaica. You need to find opportunities for these people," Ricketts said.

He added: "If they go to school and they really have limited options in terms of work opportunities, and they can get [a job in] the call centre, rather than denigrate it, rather than look down at it, what we should be thinking is beyond the call centre, we need the value added."