JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, says the high cost of energy is the single most deterrent to economic growth in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
  • The Prime Minister emphasized that the country’s high energy tab continues to adversely affect local economic activities.
  • The Prime Minister pointed out that the cost of energy represents more than one-third of Jamaica’s total import bill, and more than 125 per cent of the country’s total merchandise exports.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, says the high cost of energy is the single most deterrent to economic growth in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

Addressing an International Monetary Fund (IMF) sponsored 2014 High-Level Caribbean Forum at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, in Rose Hall, St James, on Wednesday, October 23, the Prime Minister emphasized that the country’s high energy tab continues to adversely affect local economic activities.

“Quite simply, given the high cost of energy, people have less money to spend, and locally produced goods and services suffer,” she said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the cost of energy represents more than one-third of Jamaica’s total import bill, and more than 125 per cent of the country’s total merchandise exports.

This, she states, adversely affects the competitiveness of the economy, particularly in mining and manufacturing, the two sectors with the highest usage levels.

“To put in context the importance of this sector to our economy, in respect of the mining sector, there has been the closure of 2 million tonnes of annual alumina capacity since 2009. This is equivalent to US$700 million of gross annual export earnings. This closure is directly attributable to the high cost of energy to the sector,” the Prime Minister said.

Mrs. Simpson Miller added that the high price of energy has also had a significant impact on the disposable incomes of individuals and businesses.

The Prime Minister informed  that because of this impact, the Government has been paying keen attention to the matter, primarily in the three most prominent areas – that of  replacing the ageing and inefficient power generating units with more modern efficient ones; using a cheaper alternative to oil; and securing alternative fuels at competitive prices.

The Government is also identifying sources of renewable energy and formulating a more efficient mix of solar, wind and hydro-electricity, and building the country’s capacities.

Conservation is also a part of the strategy,  with the Prime Minister noting that  central Ministries and Agencies are benefiting from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-funded Public Sector Energy Efficiency and Conservation Programme, which seeks to reduce the annual $14 billion public sector electricity bill by 30 per cent over four years.

She urged Caribbean countries to adopt a united approach in addressing the need for cost effective energy sourcing.

The two-day High Level Caribbean Forum is being held under the theme:  ‘Unlocking Economic Growth’, and Finance Ministers and other government officials from Caribbean countries,  including Antigua-Barbuda,  The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, Surinam,  Trinidad and Tobago,  as well as officials from the IDB, the World Bank, and the Caribbean Development Bank are taking part.

The forum is aimed at providing an opportunity for governments to share ideas and to give account of their economic reform programmes with the IMF.