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Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw has said that activities in the informal sector have contributed to the “slipping and sliding” of the economy and the negative consequences on the lives of Jamaicans.
Noting that the informal sector is now 40 per cent of the entire economy, he described informal operators as people hustling to make a buck, buying and selling without paying taxes and using the proceeds of the productivity generated by others “just to get by.”
The Minister was speaking, today (July 9), at an Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank seminar on Intellectual Property Rights, at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
Mr. Shaw explained that as a result of the informal economy, the country has not seen incremental increases in per capita income, a generally accepted measure of the wellbeing of the people of a country.
The Minister compared Jamaica’s equal standing with its regional counterparts 20 years ago with today, citing per capita income of US$14,000 for Barbados, approximately US$12,000 for Trinidad and Tobago, and a paltry US$4,000 for Jamaica.
Mr. Shaw said he is deeply concerned about the activities in the informal sector, which have resulted in a decline in productivity and an increase in crime.
“Something is fundamentally wrong. We have been slipping and sliding and drifting for far too long like a helmless vessel and part of this drifting along has led to the spike in the crime rate in the country,” the Minister argued.
He pointed out that what is fundamentally wrong within the Jamaican economy is the lack of investments in the productive sector, where a competitive advantage could be created.
“It is not always original thoughts that drive the productive sector of the economy. It is doing something better than others, creating the competitive advantage both in terms of import substitution and exports,” the Minister added.
He lauded the efforts of Dr. Henry Lowe, who recently registered a patent on possible cures being developed for HIV/AIDS, as well as the Ex-Im Bank in its thrust to engender a spirit of idea generation and protection, in an area that has commercial value.
“The Government and the Ministry will leave no stones unturned to support those who want to take risks, by creating a nurturing environment to create more Henry Lowes,” Mr. Shaw said.