As Jamaica steadily advances in its economic reform agenda, Government and policymakers are impelled to not take the gains the country has secured over the last couple of years for granted, but instead use them to continue in building out a path for greater growth and to correct the ills of the past.
Co-chair of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), Keith Duncan, has said that with the country’s macroeconomic indicators remaining strong, we need to remain resilient and advance our position by capitalising on what we have already achieved.
“Jamaica has to remain resolute and continue the economic reforms which have worked well for macroeconomic stability, and continue to drive towards the Government’s medium-term growth target,” he said.
Duncan was of the view that over the last 20-30 years, the country’s institutions were not strengthened in any real way.
“For as long as I can remember, growing up as a child, Jamaica has moved from economic crisis, financial crisis, over and over again; that’s what we can remember over the last 20-30 years. Every couple of years, there was some fall out, some self-correction required — and we were just not able to achieve any level of macroeconomic stability.
“We do now have the foundations for growth,” he emphasised.
He then went on to question the last time the country had invested in developing certain important capacities, such as water-catchment facilities.
“When was the last time that Jamaica built a dam? Jamaica has so much water and we can’t get water to everybody?” he asked.
He believes that these long-standing issues prevail and continue to recur, as much of the country’s resources and infrastructure was expended in correcting the ills of the past.
“The focus was on correcting the macroeconomic issues that developed from time to time, and [were] not focused on putting in the infrastructure that is required to drive productivity. Our fiscal space has now opened up wherein we have ran a stable economy —with low and stable inflation, low interest rates and building up reserves — thus giving us a platform,” he noted.
This fiscal space opening, he said, will allow the country to allocate more capital expenditure for infrastructure and investment.
“Now that we have macroeconomic stability, we have that opportunity to develop and invest. If we develop our water structures, agriculture will result in more growth. If we equip national security — the police, army and everyone — we’ll get the growth.” he said.
Though noting that challenges still exist in getting to that place of well-being, EPOC’s co-chair nevertheless remains confident that the country can achieve its true potential as it embarks on a journey to real economic independence.
“Moving onto the next phase of Jamaica’s journey, we need to ensure that we are building capacities to facilitate growth, value-added growth,” he said.