KINGSTON — Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, says a strategic goal of the government is to not only facilitate economic growth and development, but to stimulate job creation.
“My challenge, having been appointed in this capacity, is to facilitate as much as possible the creation of economic activity, and in particular, I would like at the end of my tenure to say that we were able to stimulate jobs,” the Minister said.
He was speaking at a ‘Meet the Ministers’ Series, an event organised by Strategic Corporate Interventions Limited, in partnership with Samuda and Johnson, attorneys-at-Law, held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on August 24.
The Minister told members of the business community that while the value of economic activity is critically important, “you can achieve tremendous value, but not achieve people engagement." He said one of the major challenges Jamaica faces at this time, and indeed the rest of the world, is growth without job creation.
“Jamaica today, and going into the foreseeable future, needs to create economic expansion, but critically linked to that must be the creation of economic engagement of people. Otherwise, we run the risk of polarising our society further and creating a greater rift and divide between those who have and those who don’t,” Dr. Tufton said.
He argued that the task of taking the economy from stabilisation to further growth will be a challenging one, but one that is necessary if the country is to move forward.
“We are existing in relatively uncertain times, and being asked to expand economic activity and create jobs in the context of a global economy, that exists in equally uncertain times. So, while we control some variables, we must accept also that there are some variables that we don’t control and therefore this makes it that much more complicated,” the Minister said.
In the meantime, Dr. Tufton argued that the administration deserves some credit for the direction in which the economy has been moving over the last four years and for its economic policies.
The Minister said the fragile economic stability that currently obtains in the country has been achieved through the support of a number of sectors across the country.
“We got tremendous support and that has to be recognised and appreciated, and the lesson there is that collaboration is going to be necessary to move the process forward,” he noted.
Dr. Tufton said the next step for the country therefore, is to move forward towards creating jobs, noting that there are a number of challenges that need to be confronted and overcome as the country seeks to move from stabilisation to development.
“It is a marketplace that has psychological and structural deficiencies, which we have to confront while we are trying to move from stabilisation to expansion,” he said.
He said these psychological deficiencies exist because the market and the country’s entrepreneurial class, over time, have become accustomed to a particular macro-economic framework that has conditioned their minds into minimising risk-taking in the real economy.
“The last 25 years in Jamaica did not encourage risk taking in the real economy, because there were better opportunities that existed in the portfolio economy, in managing money and trading money,” he argued.
“In a sense, it has become part of our culture, and businesses over time, have reconditioned their structure, their arrangement, to cater to those opportunities that existed at the expense of other opportunities like manufacturing and other tangible investments,” Dr. Tufton added.
The ‘Meet the Ministers’ series, the brainchild of Strategic Corporate Interventions Limited and the law firm, Samuda and Johnson, provides an opportunity for business leaders and professionals to interface with Ministers of government on critical social, political and economic matters affecting the Jamaican economy and community.
The company also organises a similar event, called ‘Meet the Prime Ministers’ series, which allows business leaders to discuss issues of concern with leaders of the Caribbean.
Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding; Prime Minister of Barbados, Hon. David Thompson, and Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Denzil Douglas, have been guest speakers at previous editions.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter