JIS News

Poverty decreased marginally last year to 14.3 per cent, which is 0.5 per cent decline over the figure for 2005.
Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies, made the announcement as he opened the 2007/08 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives yesterday (April 12).
Giving a breakdown of the figures by region, he said that poverty in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) went down from 9.6 per cent to 9.4 per cent, whilst in rural areas, the level declined from 21.1 per cent to 19.8 per cent.
However for ‘other towns’, the level of poverty moved up from 7.2 per cent to 9.2 per cent. “I have asked for an analysis of the data for other towns and although the report is preliminary, the answer is partly related to the construction sector during the period when there was a shortage in cement,” Dr. Davies told the House.
In terms of the performance of the economy, the Finance and Planning Minister said that preliminary data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) indicated that the economy grew by 2.5 per cent which, although moderate, was the highest growth rate in 11 years.
He added that the goods producing sector grew by 1.1 per cent and services by 3.2 per cent. The main sectoral contributors in terms of growth were agriculture, which went up by 15.9 per cent and miscellaneous services, including tourism, which grew by 9.9 per cent. “The tourism sector in 2006 recorded 3 million visitors for the first time in our history,” said Dr. Davies.
Turning to employment figures, the Finance and Planning Minister expressed concern about the unemployment rate, which went up from 8.9 per cent in July to 9.6 per cent in October, with more than 50 per cent of the unemployed coming from the age group 20 to 34 years.
He added that “of particular concern is the unemployment rate of the 20 to 24 age groups, which was 20.2 per cent. Also of concern is the continued high rate of underemployment amongst women.”
“The problems revealed by the data will require focus responses and one of the paradoxes we now need to look at is the fact that the females are outperforming males at the tertiary level of our education system. It is an interesting paradox and we now have to get our best brains to focus on it,” said Dr. Davies.
He told the House that one of the major achievements during 2006 was the successful completion of negotiations with the unions representing the workers in the public sector, which led to the signing of the second Memorandum of Understanding.
“The signing of this second historic agreement took place despite all the negative predictions and represents a major step forward in terms of industrial relations. More important, it demonstrates that the trade union movement has reached a level of maturation where there is a clear separation between protecting the interest of workers as opposed to support for any political party,” informed Dr. Davies.
He noted that “the basis has now been laid for understanding between the government and the trade union movement to be broadened to take in a range of other issues of importance to the society.”