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THE NEXT 50 YEARS - Grow the economy

Published:Thursday | December 6, 2012 | 12:00 AM
The Bank of Jamaica building, downtown, Kingston.

Jamaica continues to celebrate 50 years of Independence. We have achieved a lot. However, there is much work left to be done if we are to progress as a country. We must begin to tackle Jamaica's chronic problems in a targeted and sustained way to make this country a better place to live, work and grow families. The Next 50 Years, a special Gleaner series, will spotlight some of the challenges we must fix in the coming years. We want to hear from you. Email us at and join the debate.

A REVIEW of government policy and the facilitation of economic growth in Jamaica since Independence suggests the following:

Formalised economic planning has been used in various forms over the last 55 years, but there is no indication that these plans have dominated the design or implementation of economic policy, or that they have generally been successful in attaining stated objectives.

In 1957, we lamented unemployment, poverty, and uneven income distribution. In 2012, the lament continues.

Policy has not always reflected an understanding of the interdependence between economic stability and growth, or paid sufficient respect to macroeconomic resource constraints.

Jamaica has not been successful in improving fundamental contextual drivers of investment and competitiveness, including security, education and energy costs.

There is much to be done and new approaches are required.

Strategies to facilitate growth in the next 50 years:

1.Jamaica needs to facilitate greater socio-economic equality, not just of income, but also of educational access and economic opportunity. Relative to economies like Barbados, with which Jamaica is unfavourably compared, income distribution is highly uneven, there is a smaller middle class, and our labour, a major economic resource, is severely undereducated.

2.Tax incentives need to be reduced in scope and targeted more productively. The massive loss of revenue without any effective accounting for impact needs to be replaced.

3.Enhancing the security of person and property, as well as social stability, would significantly reduce the cost of doing business in Jamaica.

4.For much of the last 50 years, we have been more concerned about electricity-generating capacity than the cost of electricity generated. Rapid deployment of cheaper alternative energy sources and increased efficiency in generation and distribution are essential in enhancing the competitiveness of the economy.