- The Government’s implementation of the economic reform programme continues to generate positive feedback from the private sector.
- This response has amplified in the wake of reported improvements in business and consumer confidence for the October to December 2014 quarter.
- Details of recent surveys show that the business confidence index rose to 122.9 points for the period, up from 112.1 in the July to September quarter of 2014, and well above the 98.2 recorded in the October to December quarter of 2013.
The Government’s implementation of the economic reform programme continues to generate positive feedback from the private sector.
This response has amplified in the wake of reported improvements in business and consumer confidence for the October to December 2014 quarter.
Details of recent surveys show that the business confidence index rose to 122.9 points for the period, up from 112.1 in the July to September quarter of 2014, and well above the 98.2 recorded in the October to December quarter of 2013.
Further, that consumer confidence rose during the October to December 2014 quarter to 110 points, the highest level since the corresponding period in 2012.
Commenting on the findings, Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) President, William Mahfood, tells JIS News that the figures reflect continued laying of the groundwork for growth by the Government. This, he points out, through legislative and structural engagements.
Consequent on these, Mr. Mahfood says “there is stability in terms of interest rates; we have a little more stability in terms of foreign exchange movement, as well as tax policy measures (undertaken) over the last year and a half.”
“Additionally, the fact that the country has passed six International Monetary Fund (IMF) tests… basically augurs well for the growth agenda, which the Government has clearly outlined it needs to put the country on. And, one of the things that the Government has made very clear, is that they are ready and are setting the stage for sustainable growth,” the President notes.
Mr. Mahfood says he is optimistic about Jamaica’s continued economic recovery and growth over the medium to long term, noting that a number of other private sector stakeholders share similar sentiments.
This optimism, he informs, has manifested in “tremendous” investments which they have made, particularly over the last 18 months, to expand their operations. “I think a lot of these will now begin to reap the rewards,” he adds.
“There are still companies on the sidelines, which have been waiting for stability (in the economy), and I advise them that now is the time (to invest) as never, I think, in the future will we see an opportunity like now, to invest in the country,” he says.
Mr. Mahfood, however, cites several areas which he says must receive focus by the administration.
“I think there are still some policy issues the Government needs to (address) in relation to tax reform…Specifically, we need to ensure a higher level of tax compliance. If this and some other policy measures are resolved (then) I think the future will be very positive,” he says.
Meanwhile, Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) President, Hugh Johnson, says there is also a general “sense of optimism” among members, “because…the business sector feels that we have a Government that is willing to listen (to our concerns).” This, he adds, is based on the legislative and regulatory framework that has been established.
“Even though we have not seen (or felt the benefits) on the ground yet …it is for the business sector now to get our act together, as it relates to doing business in a strategic way, in order to capitalize on the established structures that are there (to facilitate growth),” he argues.
Mr. Johnson notes that a major concern for many small business stakeholders is access to financing. He, however, cites the need for more small business operators encountering these challenges to ensure that they institute proper structures and frameworks within their operations.
“We also need proper business coaching, as a small business sector…to get us ahead, and we are optimistic about that (materialising). We (SBAJ) are trying to encourage our membership to do further training, in order to do business in a structured manner,” he tells JIS News.
While noting that there are likely to be “great challenges” over the short term, Mr. Johnson anticipates that the economy and business environment “will improve significantly” over the medium to long term.
Chief Executive Officer of Scotia Group Jamaica Limited, Jacqueline Sharp, is also optimistic about the prospects for the country’s future.
Speaking at the opening of the bank’s Fairview Financial Centre in Montego Bay, earlier this month, Mrs. Sharp said that based on the targets and results of the economic reform programme “Jamaica is poised for growth.”
This is based on significant efforts made by the Government to improve Jamaica’s business climate.
“We have seen the commitment, so far, demonstrated by the Government in executing the economic programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)….and the successes…in this very difficult and challenging environment,” she noted.
These efforts, she said, have raised Jamaica’s investment profile on the international landscape, resulting in the country being ranked as the best place to do business in the Caribbean.
In her outlook for 2015, and beyond, Mrs. Sharp listed slowing in the depreciation of the local currency; continued stability in interest rates and possibly, even slight reductions throughout the year; single digit inflation; and continued growth in some key sectors, such as tourism and agriculture, as key developments to anticipate.