As economy improves, PM urges businesses to help tackle climate change

Business

As economy improves, PM urges businesses to help tackle climate change

BY RICHARD BROWNE
Business editor
browner@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 24, 2020

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness has argued that while governments are the key force in tackling climate change, businesses and investors need to step up to the plate as well.


“If we are going to impact the climate change agenda we need all hands on deck,” Holness said in his address to the opening of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) conference Tuesday night at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.


“The growth and success of our stock market have reflected our hard-won macroeconomic stability and we cannot take it for granted,” he said. “The truth is that, while the Jamaican economy is doing very well — and I could enumerate all the great things that are happening; since it is a special year I probably should enumerate them — the point is, we are still vulnerable.”


Areas of concern, he said, include size, open economy, lack of greater diversity and complexity in the economy, serious social equity issues to address, climate change issues, epidemics and other health concerns. So it is not an all rosy picture.


“What is required now is to have good stewardship,” he said. “We have a strong democracy and a very active civil society.”


On efforts to tackle climate change, he reiterated the Government's push to plant three million trees. He also pointed out that the Administration was looking closely at vehicle emissions and moving towards eclectric cars.


“We don't want to be left behind,” Holness said.


Some countries have discovered oil, he said in reference to Guyana. “But in a sense, I think that Jamaica should be looking for a future where it is not dependent on oil.”


He noted that moves are being made to develop renewable sources of energy from the abundant sunshine, very good wind flow and hydro resources.


“We are examining all this,” he said.


But he noted that much has already been done, including the building of the largest solar plant in the English-speaking Caribbean at Paradise in Westmoreland, the divestment of the windfarm at Wigton, and the ban on plastic bags.


A total of about 17 per cent of Jamaica's energy comes from renewables, Holness said, but he pointed out the country would be moving towards 50 per cent, which was quite possible in another five to 10 years as technology improves, including storage and hydrogen cell technology.


The stock market plays a critical role to raise equity to develop assets, he said, adding that the upcoming TransJamaica Highway initial public offering (IPO) is expected to be the largest in Jamaica's history. That IPO will be “another opportunity for Jamaicans to invest in a piece of Jamaica”, he said.


“Now is the time to try to show the world that we deserve all the accolades we've been getting and that we are going to stick with the plan,” he said.


Noting that spending over the Christmas period was flat, the prime minister thought that the reason could be related to people saving up their funds to invest in upcoming IPOs, rather than buying unnecessary items.


“There is no success without sacrifice,” he said.


PORT ROYAL


Meanwhile, with the docking of a cruise ship at Port Royal on Monday, Holness looked forward to the day when Kingston Harbour could have eight cruise ships docked at the same time, as can currently happen in Grand Cayman.


“Can you imagine if we had three or four or five cruise ships coming in a week and people started to invest in Port Royal? The employment that it would create? And it wouldn't just be Port Royal because in this trip people went to Trench Town, went to the Bob Marley Museum, some went up into the hills to see our coffee... we have so many attractions.


“And with new roads, people can get to the north coast in 1.5 hours,” he said.


“We must monetise the asset, we must make sure we have full utilisation of every asset that Jamaica has. The stock market allows us to raise the equity so we can make the investments in these assets,” he said.


On tackling the threat of inequality in the society and social justice, he said the stock market is doing so well because it recognises that it must fulfil its duty towards corporate social responsibility.


All who are doing well in this economy should do their part to help others with school fees or lunch as Government increases its social spending cautiously, Holness said.


“If every Jamaican adopts the ethic of maximising their value in their assets but at the same time fulfils their social responsibility, as a society together we can overcome all the threats that are upon the horizon,” the prime minister said.


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