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Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw, has underscored the need for higher output in agriculture, to reduce the number of waivers that the Ministry is called on to grant for imported food items.
The Minister, who spoke at the Annual General Meeting of the National People’s Co-operative (PC) Bank of Jamaica, on Wednesday (February 18), at the Kendal Conference Centre, in Manchester, emphasised that without massive agricultural production, the economy would remain stagnant.
“Agriculture is a critical part of our solution going forward. I am alarmed at one of the things that I have discovered and continue to witness at the Ministry of Finance, which is the constant granting of waivers for the importation of all kinds of food products, many of which we can produce right here in Jamaica,” Mr. Shaw said.
He added that in the new Budget for 2009/10, much more incentives would be provided for the expansion and stimulation of the productive sectors.
“We have to dedicate ourselves to cut the red tape, which hinders production. The Prime Minister and myself are committed to that process, and in the tax reform regime, we are creating incentives to boost investment and production. The more we return to productivity, is the less we will be called on to grant waivers for import food items,” Mr. Shaw said.
The Minister urged the PC Banks to not just balance their books by going after what, at times, seem to be attractive investment opportunities, but ensure that they work to expand the agricultural and productive sectors.
“The idea of the PC Bank was grounded in rural development, and for it to play its meaningful role, it must balance the opportunities that enhances agriculture in rural Jamaica. Food production and self-sufficiency has got to be part of the landscape going forward. It will reduce the stresses on the foreign exchange market,” he argued.