JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Co-Chair of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), Richard Byles, says Jamaicans should exercise patience, as the country continues to work to achieve higher growth.
  • Mr. Byles said growth in the Jamaican economy is not easy to come by, and the recent series of reported marginal growth should not be viewed with any indifference.
  • In August the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) reported that the economy grew by an estimated 1.2 per cent in the April to June quarter, when compared to the corresponding period in 2013.

Co-Chair of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), Richard Byles, says Jamaicans should exercise patience, as the country continues to work to achieve higher growth.

Mr. Byles, who was addressing journalists at the EPOC’s monthly press briefing on September 8, in Kingston, said growth in the Jamaican economy is not easy to come by, and the recent series of reported marginal growth should not be viewed with any indifference.

“It wasn’t long ago we were not getting any positive growth at all, and having got four quarters of positive growth, back to back , growth is almost becoming blasé to us and it shouldn’t, because (growth) is not easy to come by,” Mr. Byles added.

In August the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) reported that the economy grew by an estimated 1.2 per cent in the April to June quarter, when compared to the corresponding period in 2013.

Mr. Byles said this resulted from continued implementation of initiatives aimed at improving productivity as well as output in the agricultural sector.

“This is good news, because in the final analysis what we do want is growth and employment, and the 1.2 per cent for this quarter is in sync with the expected annual growth of about 1.4 per cent, so I would say a good start to the fiscal year of the Government,” Mr. Byles noted.

However, he said the ongoing drought conditions are likely to impact growth in the July to September quarter. Inflation for July, which stood at 1.4 per cent, was also impacted by high food prices, resulting from the ongoing drought across the island.

Noting that in most economies that are trying to grow, the Government plays a significant role in spurring investments, Mr. Byles said the main factors which continue to retard significant growth in the economy are high debt and crime.

He told journalists that for the April to July period, Jamaica spent a total of $61 billion to service the debt, and that there would have been a big difference if only half of that was required. This, he suggested, would have helped the Government to spend more on roads, hospitals, schools and fighting crime.

Meanwhile, Mr. Byles said that during a recent meeting with Minister of National Security, Hon. Peter Bunting, it was highlighted that the Jamaican economy would have grown by 5.4 per cent per annum if the national crime rate was low as Costa Rica’s.

“This is what everybody wants, and indeed when you look at the recent global competitiveness report, the number one inhibitor to our competitiveness is crime,” he noted.

Mr. Byles said as a result of the meeting with the Security Minister, the EPOC had further discussions with the Ministry of Finance and Planning to see if there are areas where more funds could be allocated to fight crime.

“We know that it’s a tough budget all around, but maybe there is a little efficiency we can pick up here and there that can help in the crime fighting business,” he added.