Minister Shaw Reiterates Value of Agro-Business


Finance and the Public Service Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw says agriculture, and agro-industry in particular, must be a critical part of the replacement industry for bauxite.
“It’s not to say that bauxite and alumina is completely dead. Clearly, when the world market is buoyant again, we will be able to see our factories reopen, but the truth is the economic diversification that we needed, we should have started and embarked on a long time ago. We had stops and starts; we just have to do much more,” Mr. Shaw told the House of Representatives on June 30.
He pointed out that preliminary surveys estimate that the market for indigenous Jamaican products is ten times more than what is being exported, currently.
“Ten times what we are exporting now is in the region of US$2.5 billion, because we are exporting $250 million now. If we were to get serious and fill that market, it would dwarf the contribution of the alumina and bauxite sector, and in terms of the overall contribution to the economy, what it would be doing is involving small farmers from Negril Point straight back to Morant Point,” Mr. Shaw asserted.
He made the observation while seeking the House’s approval for the withdrawal of $770 million from the Capital Development Fund (CDF).
Of the sum, $510 million is to be paid into the Consolidated Fund for budgetary support for the month of June, while $159.4 million will be used to provide budgetary support for the Jamaica Bauxite Institute. The remaining $100 million will go toward the Bauxite Community Development project.
The House adopted the resolution, which is provided for under the Bauxite Production Levy Act. This is the first withdrawal from the CDF, which is financed by the Bauxite Levy, for 2009.
Meanwhile, the House approved a Government guarantee for a loan of $425 million to the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) from the Bank of Nova Scotia, to liquidate loans at the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (RBTT), and the National Commercial Bank (NCB). The refinancing programme relates to loans of $250 million and $150 million, from the NCB and RBTT, respectively.
Mr. Shaw noted that the Government has been taking steps to operate the JUTC more efficiently, through a number of measures such as staff rationalisation, retraining of personnel and the upgrading of the fleet.
“If we make the JUTC more efficient, more responsive, more comfortable, have reliable service, over time, they should be able to recapture some of the market share that they have lost,” he stated.

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