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RJRGLEANER-commissioned Don Anderson survey | At the mercy of mercernaries, says small business leader - Despite economic stability, most say they are not better off, poll reveals

Published:Tuesday | March 3, 2020 | 12:00 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Hugh Johnson, president of the Small Business Association of Jamaica.
Hugh Johnson, president of the Small Business Association of Jamaica.

Just under 60 per cent of Jamaicans are of the view that the Holness administration has improved the economy in the last four years but approximately half of those polled have seen a positive shift in their personal finances, an RJRGLEANER-commissioned Don Anderson survey has revealed.

The poll, conducted between February 8 and 18 among 1,038 respondents islandwide, found that 32 per cent of Jamaicans did not see an improvement in the economy, while five per cent did not know. Six per cent were not sure.

President of the Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ), Hugh Johnson, agreed with the majority of Jamaicans that there was improvement in the economy but cautioned that the benefits had not trickled down to most people.

“They are doing some things that are not conducive to productive engagement and we have started to shift. The administration needs to do the correct thing because any growth that is not inclusive growth will be short-lived,” Johnson said.

Contrary to the improved state of the economy, half of the respondents in the Don Anderson poll said they had not experienced an increase in their personal financial position.

J’cans being marginalised

Forty-five per cent of Jamaicans saw an increase in their financial status, while three per cent checked ‘don’t know’. The remaining two per cent said they were not sure.

Johnson lamented that the wider population was being marginalised to the advantage of Big Business, a trend that had dire consequences of stagnation and retardation.

He said that banks, insurance companies, and utility companies are “raping the populace” with the rates they charge.

“They are at the mercy of those mercenaries and there is no government action to safeguard them against their monopolistic approach and behaviour,” the SBAJ president said.

“From where I sit and listening to the cry of the people, I think it has worsened. People’s disposable incomes are being eroded significantly, and for that reason I would want to agree with the figure that shows that more people believe that they are not better off,” Johnson added.

The Holness administration has trumpeted a number of macroeconomic achievements, including debt to GDP falling below 100 per cent and record-low unemployment of 7.2 per cent.

However, annual economic growth has continued to lag behind expectations, trending at less than one per cent – an anaemic rate that has dogged the country for four decades. While tourism and manufacturing have experienced growth, other key sectors like agriculture and mining have been hit by drought and the shuttering of the Alpart plant in St Elizabeth, respectively.

People’s National Party President Dr Peter Phillips has renewed his call for the Government to roll back the general consumption tax, of 16.5 per cent, so that Jamaicans can have more disposable income as economic fallout from the global novel coronavirus outbreak looms.

“Government should be willing to review the tax situation. It is time for the reduction in GCT in order to put more money in the pockets of the ordinary people,” Phillips said at a public meeting in Golden Spring on Sunday.

Phillips’ earlier recommendation had been criticised as ill conceived by Opposition Senator Andre Haughton.