JIS News

In spite of the damage to the bauxite industry by Hurricane Ivan last September, Minister of Development, Dr. Paul Robertson is reporting that the 2004/05 fiscal year was among the best in the more than 53-year history of the industry in Jamaica.
This, he said, was due to the basic strength and resilience of a healthier local industry and continued favourable conditions in the international alumina industry.
The Minister who was making his contribution to the 2005 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, July 12, informed that the hurricane inflicted more than US$40 million worth of damage to the port facilities, plants and red mud lakes, resulting in the country losing approximately 175,000 tonnes of alumina production and some 46,000 tonnes of crude bauxite output.
“Despite these effects we were able to end the year with a growth rate of 4.7 percent and earnings actually increased by 16 percent due to pricing,” he said.
He further informed that gross export earnings from the sector increased to US$898.3 million for the financial year. Of this amount some 41.2 per cent or US$370.5 million was retained in the country as net earnings, an increase of 4.9 per cent.
“This represent expenditures on works and local purchases that likewise benefit the country as well as revenue accruing directly to the government from levy, taxes, royalties and expenditures undertaken by the companies on wages and salaries,” Minister Robertson said.
Turning to the issue of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the bauxite/alumina industry, he said criticism from some union representatives that the government had been dragging its feet on this issue was not true. “Let it be recalled that the MoU which is now entering its eighth year, was to have run for an initial period of five years after which its progress should have been reviewed with the aim of fine-tuning the objectives and mechanisms and, most importantly ensure that we are affectively responding to global developments,” he said.
With this in mind, Dr. Robertson said, he wrote last year to the relevant parties requesting evaluation of the operation of the various elements of the MoU and their views on the way forward. The response so far, he argued, had been disappointing. “I have written today again urging the partners to submit their responses so that the review process can proceed,” he informed.
Nevertheless, Dr. Robertson said Productivity Incentive Schemes, remained in place at all the companies and continue to promote worker participation, lift morale and generate efficiencies in costs, savings and all-round productivity. At the same time, he informed, new labour contracts were being negotiated which, in the spirit of the MoU, were expected to continue to set the framework for the continued progressive development and expansion of the sector.