JIS News

Opposition Senator, Shirley Williams has called on the Government to undertake the necessary initiatives to develop the linkages between foreign direct investment (FDI) and the domestic environment, in order to maximize the benefits of FDI flows.
Senator Williams, who was making her contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in Gordon House last Friday (March 3), said in the absence of the Government’s facilitation and intervention, there would be an insignificant relationship between FDI and employment.
Pointing to the 2004 economic and social survey report, which estimates that some 11.7 per cent of persons were unemployed and another 40 per cent outside of the labour force, Senator Williams said this left a 51.7 per cent of the working age population unproductive and without means of visible support.
According to Mrs. Williams, there was also need for a co-ordinated approach to the development of small business enterprises.
Furthermore, she said while the growing tourist industry has enabled substantial flows of FDI over the past five years, there was no significant reduction in the unemployed labour force over the period, with the level of unemployment remaining in double digits.
Senator Williams said the absence of a cadre of the required human resources to staff the 5,900 rooms in the hotels, which are expected to come on stream between 2005 and 2008, was a clear example of FDI without the local linkages being planned and put in place in a timely manner.
She recommended that a human resource centre be established in each parish to provide access to business and employment opportunities.
She also called for the establishment of a National Task Force comprising representatives from Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), HEART Trust/NTA and other relevant state agencies and professional bodies to work towards facilitating the transfer of training, technology and other benefits accruing from foreign direct investment to the domestic environment.
Commenting on the National Industrial Policy, Senator Williams said the country had failed to achieve the objectives of phase one of the policy, as it related to inflation, interest rates and the stability of the currency. In addition, she said there had also been a failure to meet the objectives under phase two of the policy with respect to growth, pointing out that growth between 1996 and 2004 moved from negative to less than 2 per cent.
“So Phase two of the National Industrial Policy projected to end in 1998, even now in 2004 has yet to meet its objectives,” Mrs. Williams argued.With respect to phase three of the policy, she said its objectives had also not been met in terms of improving the import push and implementing import substitution.
“We have failed to date to significantly increase our exports from just over US$1 billion annually, the issue of import substitution is more dismal as our imports moved from just under US$3 billion in the last decade to US$3.5 billion in 2004. So instead of achieving import substitution, we have increased the import bill,” she said.
Mrs. Williams said in light of the analysis of the figures, it should be concluded that all three phases of the policy had failed to meet their targets. In recommending a revamping of the policy, she said the shift should reflect an increased focus on the services sector, especially small, micro and medium enterprises, which are the greatest employers of labour.