- Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) President, Hugh Johnson, says he is “very optimistic” that the country can recover from the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
- He tells JIS News that while further slowing down of economic activity is anticipated, “I do not think an outright lockdown is looming”.
- “We have a cadre of leaders instituting interventions, who I believe mean this country well. We should support them in whatever they are doing to safeguard Jamaica against the adverse effects of COVID-19,” the SBAJ President adds.
Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) President, Hugh Johnson, says he is “very optimistic” that the country can recover from the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
He tells JIS News that while further slowing down of economic activity is anticipated, “I do not think an outright lockdown is looming”.
“We have a cadre of leaders instituting interventions, who I believe mean this country well. We should support them in whatever they are doing to safeguard Jamaica against the adverse effects of COVID-19,” the SBAJ President adds.
Meanwhile, Mr. Johnson says the challenges associated with the outbreak present “glorious opportunities” to further bolster and safeguard the local economy against potential external shocks relating to the virus and future exogenous events.
He tells JIS News that this is critical in light of Jamaica’s dependence on several countries now being impacted by COVID-19, which are key source markets for foreign exchange earnings and other inputs generated via industries such as tourism.
Among these are the United States of America (USA), Canada, the United Kingdom and sections of mainland Europe.
“Already, we are seeing the immediate fallout in the local tourism sector and the impending fallout in remittances, two of the largest [foreign exchange] contributors to the economy. In light of this, we need to focus more on building our local economy because, currently, we are too vulnerable to external shocks,” Mr. Johnson contends.
While acknowledging that, “you can’t totally prevent imports,” he nonetheless maintains that “you can’t be importing [up to] 85 per cent of all that you consume either”.
“I see where we can become a better and more productive nation [in the aftermath of the virus], because we would be getting the opportunity to make a fresh start, in a manner of speaking,” Mr. Johnson argues.
He contends that “we need to eat what we grow and grow what we eat,” adding that “it’s high time for everyone to lock on to that principle”.
Based on the extent and effect of the COVID-19 outbreak, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, indicated last week that “it is now clear that [the global economy has] entered a recession”.
She advised that more than 80 mostly low-income countries have already requested emergency aid from the IMF.
Ms. Georgieva said the institution is aware that those nations’ reserves and domestic resources “will not be sufficient”, adding that the IMF aims to boost its response to do more within a quicker timeline.
She said the IMF is projecting recovery in 2021, but emphasises the need for countries to prioritise COVID-19 containment and strengthen health systems.
Ms. Georgieva pointed out that while the economic impact will be severe, “the faster the virus stops, the quicker and stronger the recovery will be”.
Against this background, Mr. Johnson is urging collective stakeholder efforts at all levels “to see how best we can bounce back from this [crisis] as a giant in the world economy, to be contended with”.
Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) President, David Wan, also anticipates that there could be further slowing down in local economic activity, consequent on the virus.
Mr. Wan, who cites the scaling down of operations at hotels, among other entities, believes more industries and sectors will be impacted.
While indicating that the extent of the economic slow-down in Jamaica is “tough to determine” now, he says that “at some point, the overall domino effect will become clearer as we see the overall impact on all industries”.
“So, what we are looking for is stability [resulting from the Government’s GOVID-19 interventions] to be able to understand what else we might need to do to address issues in the virus’ aftermath,” Mr. Wan adds.