Keep business culture in mind

By Nekiesha Reid Business reporter

Wednesday, August 22, 2012    

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Using plans developed by foreign consultants to grow Jamaica's economy will not work if the island's culture is not been taken into account, says a director of Grace Kennedy.

The local population has different inclinations than other cultures with regard to work ethic and productivity and responds to much more than just pay, said James Moss-Solomon.

Foreigners unfamiliar with the country's culture have a tendency to "prescribe" international models that do not recognise Jamaica's limitations and should not be sought for advice.

"Sometimes we get carried away with talking macro-economics," he said at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies's (SALISES) 50/50 conference on Monday.

"There's nothing macro about our economy [and] we cannot blindly follow what is a prescription for a macro-economic model for a much larger and differently oriented society," he said.

But while Moss-Solomon said the country's culture should be understood and manipulated to make the economy work, said Omar Azan, the former president of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association. "Jamaica needs a major cultural change to take us from where we are now."

The culture of "hand-outs", in particular, should be abandoned if the country is to move forward, he said.

Another cultural change needed to help the island's development is the movement away from unnecessary imports.

"The government of Jamaica and the people of Jamaica need to start focusing on the local procurement of items," he said, adding that the country imports close to a billion dollars worth of schoolbooks that could be printed locally.

However, local items may be harder to source because businesses are not allowed to operate freely - another hindrance to development.

Stability and a more facilitative government are needed for companies to thrive, Azan said.

"Our government is a known impediment that we need to address," Moss-Solomon agreed, noting that the Government does not facilitate the private sector, leading to a negative impact on GDP.

"We're not running Bolt's race," he said. "We're running Mrs Foster-Hylton's race and if we don't attempt to clear [our impediments], we get hurt."



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