Economic Growth Council (EGC) member, Adam Stewart, says the focus of the entity’s work in supporting the Government in 2018 will be on implementation.
Noting that the emphasis over the last two years has been on developing the drivers pivotal to achieving fiscal consolidation and ultimately higher levels of economic growth, Mr. Stewart said “we have set the table” in that regard and as such “this is the year to get things done”.
He was speaking at the EGC’s fourth quarterly report at Jamaica House on January 24.
Mr. Stewart, who is also Sandals Resorts International’s Chief Executive Officer, highlighted several key outcomes which he said are indicative that the journey towards realizing higher levels of economic is underway.
These, he outlined, include: rapid expansion of the business process outsourcing industry and growth in manufacturing, particularly over the last three quarters, resulting in the creation of over 5,000 new jobs; 7.7 per cent growth in tourism last year which he anticipates “is not about to slow down over the next four to five years”; net international reserves totalling US$3.2 billion; a reduction in unemployment to 11.6 per cent, the lowest rate in a decade; and revaluation of the Jamaican dollar.
Mr. Stewart also noted that Central Government revenues increased by over five per cent up to the end of November 2017, and the overall fiscal deficit of $19 billion is about $8 billion ahead of projected budget.
He argued that the latter suggests that the Government is, again, on track to achieving a balanced budget at the end of the 2017/18 fiscal year in March, “and confirming the hopeful likelihood that no new taxes will be imposed on the business sector,” there by facilitating its further growth.
“The fact is that the conversation has changed from fiscal consolidation to one of growth. In every forum that I attend…the conversation is about growth and positivity,” the EGC member added.
Mr. Stewart contended that the EGC’s goal of five per cent growth in four years is a target that is “still out there” in the public domain, adding that “we have pivoted from a negative (scenario) to one of a positive (nature)”.
While acknowledging that Jamaica is not yet near the attainment of this goal, he argued that it represents a target, “and that is something that is very important”.
Additionally, Mr. Stewart said the EGC believes its message is resonating across the society particularly among business stakeholders, and members of the public service who he described as pivotal “enablers” of growth.
He added that the EGC remains focused on presenting the facts to the nation to ensure that “people are conscious that Jamaica is doing a lot of the right things (and that) the country is moving in a positive direction”.
“We are all more than aware of (the) challenges (we face). But we are believers in the five-in-four (target) and we are still aiming to achieve it; we are proud that the country has grabbed on to this. We look forward to implementing in 2018 so we can realize (it),” he stated.