Give us hope
Private-sector group wants Gov't to reveal plans to alleviate stress
When Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips tells the nation how the Government will finance the Budget next week, among the keen listeners will be the Private Sector Working Group (PSWG).
Group members at Wednesday's Gleaner Editors' Forum outlined what they would like to hear from Phillips and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
"Government has to find ... some 'big ticket' item around which some small signal can be sent that we are open for business as a country," said the Reverend Garnett Roper. Pointing to the ports as a possible area, he said the aim of such an initiative was to "create some locus around which greater economic activity can be stimulated."
Moment to try
Roper said such a move would bring hope to the people.
"We have had so many reasons to self-flagellate, to just simply curse ourselves and lose hope ... and I would just like to see something for a moment to say, 'Boy, perhaps we can try'," he said.
Roper also wanted to see a targeting of resources towards the most vulnerable in society on the expenditure side of the Budget.
"I think people can't go on much longer carrying what they have to carry," he said.
PSWG Chairman Joseph M. Matalon literally counted fingers as he gave his list of things he wanted to hear from the minister.
"Tax reform ... in line with what we've proposed. Public-sector pension reform, a whole slew of policy issues surrounding the business environment that is, reducing the compliance burden that exists within the current legal and regulatory framework in the tax system, new bankruptcy legislation, (and) dealing with the operation of our justice system ... substantially reducing the backlog," he said.
"The point is, there is no one silver bullet ... that is really going to take us where we want to go. We have to come to the realisation that it is going to be a hard slog across a broad front of issues that confront us," he added.
Support creative ideas
An energetic Imani Duncan-Price said she wanted the minister to support individuals who have ideas to create businesses, making Jamaica a platform for innovation. She also thought he should focus on the key issue of energy.
"I want him to say explicitly that we are at a crossroads in our country. We 'ban' our belly long time. I want him to say that we are committed to targeted social intervention for those who need it most," said Duncan-Price, who is a government senator, as well as a member of the PSWG.
Giving practical examples of interventions he would like to see from the prime minister and the Government, Matalon bemoaned the "level of indignity that PATH (Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education) participants are put to".
"They have a different colour ticket in some schools, where they have to wait in a different line, where when they get that food, it's of a lower quality," he lamented.