Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Hon. Karl Samuda, has renewed calls for a private/public sector partnership, which can establish the framework to position Jamaica to be competitive in the global marketplace.
Addressing the 10th Annual Fair Trading Commission (FTC) Shirley Playfair Lecture, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, in Kingston, on September 10, Mr. Samuda noted that the latest World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ report and the World Economic Forum competitiveness report show Jamaica “lagging behind,” in terms of the ease with which business is done, pointing out that he had asked Ministry personnel to analyse the findings.
“The preliminary results indicate that one of the reasons why this has happened, is that other countries have done much better at introducing legislation and taking appropriate action to reduce bureaucracy, and to improve their situation, so that they have become more competitive,” he said.
Mr. Samuda lamented that the local productive sector had fallen victim to closed market protectionism, which had been implemented over several years. He said that while this had created a comfort level for stakeholders, yielding some successes in the process, it failed to generate sufficient incentives to encourage wholesale industrialisation within the sector, and position local interests to compete with their counterparts regionally and globally.
“By the time we recognised that the world owed us nothing, and that the only way we could survive is through competition, others had engaged the process. They encouraged their domestic producers to do precisely that, to introduce appropriate technology, to do things better, to train their workers,… and to focus their attention on specific areas of advantage, and go straight out and compete with the world,” the Minister argued, stressing the need for Jamaica to learn accordingly, and adopt similar measures.
Citing Mauritius as an example, Mr. Samuda pointed out that several years ago their administration took the “bull by the horns” by opting to introduce legislation that resulted in the removal of the “historical and traditional ways of doing business,” and incorporated e-commerce and e-government in a “very real and holistic manner.”
Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Hon. Karl Samuda (centre), shares a light moment with Director of Advocacy at the Competition Authority of Ireland, Mr. Declan Purcell (left), at the 10th Annual Shirley Playfair Lecture, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, in Kingston, on September 10. At right is President of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA), Mr. Omar Azan.
“As a result, they are currently being as an example to the rest of the world, of what can be done if there is commitment and determination by all interests,” he said.
Regarding the findings of the World Bank and World Economic Forum on Jamaica, Mr. Samuda stressed that the country “must now make up time,” which he said “is not on our side.”
“That is why we really need a private/public sector partnership. It is easy for the private sector to measure the deficiencies of the Government… to say ‘Government must do something to find solutions… it is the Government’s responsibility.’ On the other hand, the partnership that I am calling for, is a commitment by the private sector to be measured in their contribution to this process. We must begin to measure the extent to which private sector players, especially in the manufacturing sector, display a commitment to the introduction of new methods, strategies, and technologies that will make them more competitive,” the Minister said, adding that the process necessitated input and accountability on both sides.
Mr. Samuda pointed out, however, that while competitiveness is best achieved in the absence of protectionism, where a “dominant force” existed in a country, the Government was obliged to ensure that competition “remains alive,” citing developments with the importation and distribution of fertiliser and cement as examples of this intervention.
“We, on the Government side, are committed to working assiduously with the private sector to identify those areas that need legislative amendment, and procedural changes beyond that which we are now contemplating. But we must do it together as a team, and there must be expressions of commitment to move forward together by both sides,” the Minister emphasised.
The FTC, an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, hosts the Lecture each year, which focusses on Competition Law and Policy, while honouring the life and work of the late Mrs. Shirley Playfair, the Commission’s former Chairman.