Finance minister says he will review tax measures

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Minister of Finance Peter Phillips, while addressing a meeting with a number of trade union leaders Thursday morning, indicated that he will be "conducting a review of the announced revenue measures and will shortly announce if any adjustments will be made". A release from the ... Read more

Business

Is the Government pro-growth?

Jamaica fails to meet several milestones for growth initiative

CAMILO THAME Business co-ordinator thamec@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 26, 2014    

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AFTER much talk about the huge potential of the logistic hub for the Jamaican economy, the Government is not even close to developing a national master plan for the project.

In fact, Jamaica failed to meet key milestones for completing a strategic framework study that would be used as input for a plan, and terms of reference for the hub project is yet to be seen.

What's more, while the Government drags its feet on getting the logistics hub project going, legislation aimed at speeding up the building approval process is still being ignored.

Published last week, the first progress report on the Jamaican chapter of the Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF) showed that preparation hasn't even begun on a logistics hub master plan nor has a market study for dry-docking in Jamaica commenced.

Indeed, potential investments of between US$4-8 billion that would accompany the project over the next decade has already been identified, according to official World Bank documents.

But implementation of a Port Community System (PCS) and phase one of the Caymanas Economic Zone were also identified to be lagging behind target.

The PCS, which is supposed to electronically integrate and streamline export and import procedures at the Port Authority of Jamaica, was supposed to start rolling out in March, following the completion of negotiations with the preferred bidder on its implementation last month.

Having failed to meet all the milestones during the first review period of the CGF, it is not clear if Jamaica will still be able to complete the PCS project by March 2016 — around the time that the expanded Panama Canal is expected to be opened.

According to the progress report, the Government met all its targets up to February for at least one key component of the logistics hub initiative — the privatisation of the Kingston Container Terminal, which should undergo a US$400 million expansion once a deal is inked with a developer (three bidders have been pre-qualified).

However, the implementation of the mobile money initiative also missed some of its targets.

The roll-out of the mobile money, which is aimed at providing greater access to financial services to underserved entities including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) was supposed to be completed by September 2014, but that timeline might also be pushed back because of the latest delays.

Faster building approval and better tracking of the process also remains a key issue for enabling growth.

And even as Government promised to undertake changes in this area to enhance growth in the short term, it didn't even set any milestones for the introduction of a new building act up to February.

Changes to legislation that governs infrastructure development has been a major talking point for policymakers at least since late 2008, when the issue made it on the Government's legislation programme.

Policy aimed at improving "the efficiency of the building approval process and provide a framework for the effective management of the building industry", as well as incorporating "the Kingston and St Andrew Building Act and the Parish Council Building Act" has supposedly been in development for the last five years.

However, up to December 31, 2013, it was still being considered by the legislation committee, which is the stage that comes before a bill is even drafted.

Government also failed to meet milestones set for the preparation of a strategic roadmap for implementation of e-Government, according to the first report of the CGF, which is dated February 20, 2014.

The CGF is an initiative aimed at identifying practical and implementable policies and activities to induce growth and create jobs in the Caribbean region through analytical work, knowledge exchange and inclusive dialogue. The initiative is led by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank in collaboration with the United Kingdom Agency for International Development (DFID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

The CGF is a unique platform as it engages all critical players including the public sector, the private sector, academia, the youth, civil society and the Caribbean diaspora in the dialogue on how to stimulate economic growth.

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