Feature
Jamaica Employers’ Federation President, David Wan.
Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson

Story Highlights

  • Several business leaders are expressing confidence in the economy and outlook for Jamaica’s future.
  • Their optimism and heightened expectations are based on Jamaica’s extraordinary economic turnaround, grounded in the successful implementation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-endorsed Economic Reform Programme (ERP), resulting in the national debt falling from nearly 150 per cent to 93 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and is on course to going below 92 per cent by the end of March 2020.
  • In addition, there has been 19 consecutive quarters of growth; an increase in the number of employed persons to 1,254,400, with a commensurate decline in the unemployment rate to a record low 7.2 per cent; record low inflation and interest rates; net international reserves soaring to over US$3 billion; and non-borrowed reserves at the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) increasing by more than US$1 million, among other notable indicators.

Several business leaders are expressing confidence in the economy and outlook for Jamaica’s future.

Their optimism and heightened expectations are based on Jamaica’s extraordinary economic turnaround, grounded in the successful implementation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-endorsed Economic Reform Programme (ERP), resulting in the national debt falling from nearly 150 per cent to 93 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and is on course to going below 92 per cent by the end of March 2020.

In addition, there has been 19 consecutive quarters of growth; an increase in the number of employed persons to 1,254,400, with a commensurate decline in the unemployment rate to a record low 7.2 per cent; record low inflation and interest rates; net international reserves soaring to over US$3 billion; and non-borrowed reserves at the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) increasing by more than US$1 million, among other notable indicators.

The country’s programme of engagement over the last six and a half years, initially incorporating the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), saw the Government meeting all structural benchmarks, quantitative performance criteria and indicative targets when Jamaica exited the programme with the conclusion of the precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) in November 2019.

Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) President, David Wan, tells JIS News that “we have achieved a lot and are now in a very good position, [based on] the macroeconomic indicators, to achieve much more”.

He notes that “while we still have some way to go, I believe that the fiscal discipline is well-managed and there is no indication that there will be any slippage in that regard. I remain very optimistic about the way forward, even as we adjust to the post-IMF programme arrangements,” he adds.

Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) President, Lloyd Distant Jr., says that the IMF agreement, coupled with the coming together of Jamaicans around the ERP, “set the platform for the economy to rebound from its precarious debt-burdened, cash-strapped state”.

He says that the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) formation was a crucial, welcome decision “as that gave us the confidence that things were done differently by keeping us abreast of what was being achieved and what we needed to do”.

“Additionally, as political administrations changed, the policies pursued and instituted under the ERP were retained, which also augured well for the nation.

“So, we saw both business and consumer confidence beginning to rise to levels that we had never seen before… for sustained periods. Businesses are investing, the stock markets are doing and continue to do very well… and cash was coming back into the economy,” he adds.

Mr. Distant says he is “very optimistic and bullish in my outlook about Jamaica’s future”.

“I do believe, for example, that establishing the proposed Fiscal Council to monitor our economic affairs in the aftermath of our exiting the IMF programme arrangements is the right way to go. I believe that with this and other capacities at our disposal, we will continue to manage our affairs and do what is required to secure a better future for everyone,” he says.

Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (JMEA) President, Richard Pandohie, for his part, says that the economy had a “solid performance” in 2019.

He notes that as the nation embarks on the new decade, emphasis must be placed on transitioning Jamaica from macroeconomic stability to attaining higher levels of sustainable economic growth.

“How we achieve growth… how we create quality jobs… where we can get our people earning incomes that will lead to a better quality of life… that should be the focus,” he notes.

“We are maturing as an economy, and I am confident that we will be able to execute accordingly,” he adds.

Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Director, Warren McDonald, tells JIS News that the platform of stability has been set for higher levels of economic growth.

He notes that tourism will be a key sector going forward, through the opportunity for the strengthening of linkages with agriculture and other sectors.

“Most people are optimistic that things are on the up, and I think we’ll be looking for even higher growth. We are on the right trajectory,” he says.

Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) President, Hugh Johnson, also agrees that the economy is “much improved”.

“We have gained a lot of ground. I am very optimistic of even better things to come, and so we need to collectively do what we have committed to doing, as we need to get to where we ought to be in terms of attaining higher levels of sustainable growth that redound to the benefit of everyone,” he says.

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