Wed | Sep 22, 2021

More can be done to stimulate private sector-led growth – Robinson

Published:Friday | July 30, 2021 | 12:06 AMDavid Salmon/Gleaner Writer
Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Julian Robinson.
Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Julian Robinson.

Opposition spokesperson for finance, planning and the public service, Julian Robinson, has argued that more support is needed to encourage the growth of the private sector. Robinson was speaking at a Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica webinar on Wednesday.

He said that given the financial position of the Government, the private sector will have to play a major role in the country’s economic recovery. A number of initiatives have been introduced to encourage the development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). This includes increased access to credit.

However, Robinson explained that many businesses are unable to access these benefits given the lack of formalisation. “If you are providing support to small businesses that are operating informally, a part of that support has to be pulling them within the formal system,” he said.

For example, he proposes that formalisation should include exposing entrepreneurs to financial literacy and training. Additionally, cash disbursements can be made to businesses on the condition that they become registered.

Robinson also stated that pursuing an export-led economy is essential to reduce Jamaica’s dependency on tourism. He said, “We are importing jam and guava. We are importing a lot of things which simply push up the pressure on the dollar … we should be producing these things.”

Additionally, Robinson commended the Government for its efforts to promote the growth of the BPO (business process outsourcing), tourism and housing sectors. Although, he added, these sectors are too dependent on a “low-wage model” for employment.

NEEDED TO IMPROVE COMPETITIVENESS

Hence, investing in education and skills development is needed to improve competitiveness in these sectors. He praised the Government for forming a partnership with the Amber Group to train young people in coding. Additionally, he recommended that more support be given to technology entrepreneurs, including connecting them with angel investors and providing them with spaces to operate.

Furthermore, Robinson also suggested that the Government incentivise investors to provide housing for middle and lower-income groups, as construction produces several benefits to the economy. These incentives include bringing agencies together to speed up the approval process for new developments, identifying idle lands not being used for agriculture that can be made available to developers, and providing infrastructure in new housing developments.

Robinson also expressed his “disappointment” with the management of the energy sector as he underscored the significant impact energy has on the operations of businesses. The 2018 Jamaica Survey of Establishments identified the cost of energy as a major challenge for MSMEs. He encouraged the Government to incentivise businesses becoming more energy efficient and pursuing alternative sources of energy.