Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies has reiterated that there would be no wage freeze when the next memorandum of understanding (MOU) is signed between government and public servants in April. “The successor MOU agreement will not have a wage freeze. We couldn’t ask people who have worked for two years without an increase to go into another period, so that’s built in,” he stated.
The Finance Minister, who was the guest speaker at the Mayberry monthly investment forum held yesterday (Jan. 25) at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston, lauded the trade union representatives for the level of maturity they have displayed during the present MOU agreement. He noted that negotiations on the successor agreement were ongoing. “We expect a smooth transition from MOU 1 to MOU 2. We want to generate broader social paths between the government, the private sector and the unions,” Dr. Davies said.
The Finance Minister, in his presentation entitled: ‘Stability Despite Shocks’, said that as the government looked to maintain economic stability and increase growth for 2006/07, focus would be placed on maintaining a high primary surplus in order to eliminate the deficit; returning to single digit inflation; encouraging further foreign direct investments (FDI); and increasing expenditure on education, training and health. He noted that assistance would also be provided to small and medium enterprises, to see how they could benefit more from the large investments coming into the country.
“I don’t want us to get into a false debate about big investment and foreign direct investments as opposed to concentration on small and medium enterprises as the two are not incompatible. Large lumpy investments have taken place, reflecting confidence in the future in Jamaica. The benefit to small and medium enterprises is how do we derive as many possibilities from the large investments,” Dr. Davies pointed out.
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister said that despite the setbacks caused by the active hurricane season of 2005, coupled with raging oil prices, the country was still able to experience growth in several areas including tourism and bauxite and alumina. He informed that the tourism sector experienced a record number of stopover arrivals with increases up to 4.6 per cent, while there were major investments in the building of hotels on the north coast such as Iberostar, Rose Hall Fiesta Point, RIU 3, and the Pinero Pear Tree resort.
Remittances also increased to record a $1.6 billion at the end of 2005, he said. Turning to the road development, Dr. Davies said that Cabinet will be giving careful consideration to environment factors in rebuilding roadways and bridges damaged by the hurricanes, including the Palisadoes roadway in East Kingston, which he said, would be reconstructed to “world class” standard.