Business

EGC shifts gear

To be relentless as it becomes “enabler-in-chief”

BY RICHARD BROWNE
Business reporter
browner@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 26, 2018



Almost two years after its launch with Michael Lee-Chin as its chairman, the Economic Growth Council (EGC) is now shifting from building a positive macroeconomic environment to become the “enabler-in-chief” of economic growth in the country, according to its new CEO Aubyn Hill.

“Economic growth is not the result of an edict from the Office of the Prime Minister,” Hill said, standing in front of the carved coat of arms in the banquet room at Jamaica House during a small press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “The EGC is going to be the enabler-in-chief [and others can] 'cuss what they want or help us however they want. I am relentless.”

Speaking about the EGC's approach to other government agencies in facilitating the drive to greater economic growth, Hill said, “I won't shame them and I won't be rude, but I will be relentless. We will be standing in the breach. They will know we work for the prime minister.”

He noted that fiscal consolidation was the main buzz word of the previous Administration, but that while that is still important, “the conversation now is about economic growth”.

“Economic growth is a two-sided thing,” he said, pointing out that one side is occupied by “growth enablers” from Government, and the other by “growth implementers” from the private sector.

“Growth enablers have to make sure we are in the business of service,” Hill said. “Enablers need to work with inplementers and get growth going. We do not do growth — we enable growth.”

The growth enablers side is composed of organisations such the EGC, the Office of Utilities Regulation; National Contracts Commission; the Rural Aricultural Development Authority; Jampro; the National Water Commission; Local Government: Jamaica Customs; the Public Sector Transformation Oversight Committee; the National Environment and Planning Agency; EXIM Bank; the Development Bank of Jamaica; the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Agriculture; and public sector workers.

The corresponding growth implementers side is composed of groups such as the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, the Jamaica Exporters' Association, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, private contractors, entrepreneurs, private investors and farmers.

Meanwhile, concerns that Jamaica might not achieve its target of five per cent growth in four years (5-in-4) are not inhibiting the drive of the council, according to Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Restorts International and EGC member, who gave the keynote speech to the gathering.

“The fact that we may or may not achieve the five per cent does not perturb or bother us,” Stewart said, noting that the conversation is about growth and positivity.

“We have been able to reset the minds; not just the business class, but the civil service and the enablers,” he said. “The focus of 2018 is one of implementation... the race has already started.

“The BPO sector is on fire,” Stewart noted, adding that while manufacturing is on the rise, tourism is growing, the dollar is revaluing, and Government is on target for a balanced budget with no new taxes.

“We are believers” in many of the advantages of the Jamaican economy, Stewart said, adding language, Eastern Standard time and proximity to the Panama Canal.

“Right now we are doing all the right things... We are believers in the 5-in-4 and we still believe we can achieve it,” Stewart said.

Hill said the EGC could not do 25 things at once, and so would now be concentrating on three main areas to promote growth — water, energy, and housing — while also working to grow agriculture and improve approval efficiency while cutting red tape.

“We need to move to renewable energy and renewable water,” Hill said, noting that some drainage systems in Jamaica were 150 years old and built of brick, which was now crumbling and creating blockages. Modernisation meant creating long -term mortgages that would include renewable energy and water catchment systems by law.

Hill pointed to the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) and the Titles Office as being top performers in efficiency, but said that approval efficiency was “a real problem” and some other agencies needed to become more efficient, reducing seven-page approval forms to one page or preferably none.

In terms of agriculture, Hill noted that the country imported US$870 million worth of food in 2016 and that “70 per cent of that is a market for us”.

Apart from media, the news conference was also attended by other EGC members, including Hugh Hart, Paula Kerr-Jarrett and Pat Ramsay, as well as several representatives of multilateral bodies such as Dr Constant Lonkeng of the International Monetary Fund, Galina Sotirova of the World Bank, and Judith Green of the International Finance Corporation.

Also in attendance were heads of several other growth enablers, including Diane Edwards of Jampro, Tanny Shirley of the Factories Corporation of Jamaica, Velma Ricketts Walker of Jamaica Customs, and Milverton Reynolds of the Development Bank of Jamaica.

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