The country’s economic programme and the 2012/13 budget, though contractionary, can achieve growth, but will require strong public/private partnership going forward.
This was stated by Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, as heresponded to issues and concerns expressed at the recently held Public Forum on: ‘The Budget – the Debt and the Future’, at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus.
Emphasising the Government’s commitment to a “growth strategy”, the Minister identified two areas which are critical to the achievement of this objective. These include the “food issue, which consumes a significant portion of the country’s expenditure and the high cost of energy”.
He observed that the high cost of energy negatively impacts the competitiveness of Jamaica’s output and as a result, “something has to change and something will change”.
The Minister alluded to the recent policies designed to diversify the country’s energy sources, including less reliance on crude oil.
With respect to investments, the Minister said that his administration is now focusing much attention on medium, small and micro enterprises to drive new investments and growth. These sectors, he observed, can benefit from “key innovation and creativity which must be brought to the fore”.
The Minister identified the country’s potential as a major logistics hub, describing this as an area of opportunity, which will engender growth in the economy.
Mr. Hylton said that Jamaica can capitalise on the widening of the Panama canal, and that the Panamanians as well as other stakeholders are currently taking steps to determine whether there will be enough “supported ports” that can accommodate the large vessels expected to pass through the widened waterway.
“They have been busy going around the region and elsewhere doing audits of ports and talking to ports, to see whether and to what extent they will be ready to take these vessels,” he informed.
The Minister emphasised that investments must be underpinned by “competitiveness and ease of doing business”, and in this regard, key pieces of legislation will be addressed, including insolvency (management of corporate risk) and the protection of intellectual property rights, particularly in support of creative industries.
He also pointed out that the Government’s growth strategy will be facilitated by “joined-up-government”, which will require relevant ministries working across differing portfolios, in order to reinforce and harmonise policy prescriptions and the ease of doing business.
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter