Jamaican Economy will Continue to Rebound – Robertson


Jamaica’s Minister of Development, Dr. Paul Robertson, has expressed confidence that the economy would continue to rebound, and pointed to several indicators that demonstrated a resurgence in key sectors in the country. His comments came at a press briefing following his address at a trade and investment forum in Washington on April 29, which was organized by the Embassy of Jamaica and Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO).
Dr. Robertson said that with the recent review and critical assessment of the Jamaican economy’s performance over the past year, “we can state with confidence that the outlook for Jamaica for the new financial year, all things being equal, is one of continued growth in the real economy, fuelled by increased production and investments”.
“There are several positive indicators which support this assertion. One which you would have explored is that Jamaica is now ranked for ease of business regulations and this, to me, as Minister of Development, is very important since it is my Ministry that is charged with the mandate of cutting red tape. So this ranking speaks to a number of things, that despite the challenges, we have been able to create an environment that is conducive to business by a consistent reform agenda and we have remained steadfast to the goal of competing globally,” the Minister emphasized. Dr. Robertson also informed the gathering that government’s comprehensive liberalization programme undertaken in the 1990s, had began to bear fruit and to influence positive outcomes in economic activity in many primary sectors. “Fiscal reforms have aimed to reduce the role of the State in direct involvement in productive activity and have improved tax administration and expenditure control, thereby improving the quality of public services,” he said.
Highlighting Jamaica’s aggressive efforts to reduce inflation, Minister Robertson also pledged increased vigilance in keeping rates to single digits. “Let me also make this very important point. Jamaica has been successful in reducing inflation from 50 per cent in 1991 to 7 per cent in 2002, and although our outturn in 2003 was not as good, primarily due to doubts that we could make our fiscal deficit target of 6 per cent, and having made the target to everybody’s shock – except our own – we don’t expect to have such confidence issues going forward,” he said.
“In other words, having proven our resolve and commitment to our targets I don’t expect anybody to bet against us when I say we will again meet our targets this year,” Dr. Robertson asserted. He described the targets as an inflation rate of 9 percent, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 2.5 percent, and a deficit of 3 – 4 per cent, with a primary surplus of 13 per cent.
The Minister also pointed out that services, such as tourism, would remain a major component of the country’s economic development strategy, even while government sought to pursue expansion in other sectors and to grow the economy through increased activity in other traditional sectors, such as agriculture and mining.
“Overall, tourism last year had its best year ever and the growth in arrivals has continued into the first few months of this year. We see no reason (to anticipate) a downturn in the near term and with the expansion in the number of marketing channels serving the island as a result of the influx of new chains, as well as an expansion of the cruise ports about to be undertaken, we also anticipate significant impact in our agriculture and construction industries,” he said.
Turning to the information and telecommunications sector, Dr. Robertson informed the gathering that the government has been successful in the roll-out of its five-year strategic plan to spur growth in the area of information and communications technology (ICT).
He also mentioned that a major plank in its economic strategy would be to pursue the establishment of more call centres, back-office operations, and software development services, all designed to create employment and increase export earnings.
The Minister informed that currently, over 13,000 people were directly employed in ICT-based industries.
Following his address at the investment forum and his media briefing, the Minister was hosted at a reception by Braxton and Deborah Moncure, who are Washington investors, currently with holdings in the hospitality industry on Jamaica’s south coast.
The forum was sponsored by the Atlanta-based Mirant Corporation, which operates the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo.), and was hosted by the prominent Washington law firm, Covington and Burling.
The event was attended by representatives of several American corporations and the international financial community, such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, U.S. government officials, and members of the Washington diplomatic community. JAMPRO President, Patricia Francis and Executive Director, Michael McMorris accompanied the Minister to the meeting, which was also attended by Peter Melhado, President of the ICD Group of Companies, and who represented the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ). President and CEO of the JPSCo, Charles Matthews, also addressed the forum.

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