A little over two decades ago, private sector mogul Sameer Younis was forced to offer the doomsayers in the business community some sensible advice. He told them to think twice, against the background of suspected unconventional designs by powerful forces to influence the devaluation of the dollar even further.
In his opinion, it was the entire country that would suffer hurt by such a move, and not just the then occupants of Jamaica House.
Younis, at the time, clearly appreciated that a psyche nurtured on suspicion, self-doubt, and a proneness to believe the worst of self and the society is always ripe for rumour and innuendo.
Fast-forward to the present private sector's noisy lamentation of job losses, economic decline, and business closures, immediately following the announcement of a $16.4-billion tax package by Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, and it is worth asking the question: what is new?
Predicting "the shutdown of critical Jamaican industries" that will "cause thousands of Jamaican workers to lose their jobs" when the country is on a job-creation drive, is the kind of self-serving indulgence that militates against the demands of a society poor in material wealth but richly endowed with human resource.
But such are the juices that stimulate fear and doubt in the minds of a nervous, fragile populace at a time when the people -- rich and poor -- must be mobilised around greater productivity, economic growth, national reconstruction, and social transformation, if we are to overcome the current crisis of development.
Mr Younis was right to warn against the worst consequences of the diffusion of doom. In any event, in a climate of distrust and mental and emotional confusion, it is not surprising that there can hardly be straight thinking.
Yet, straight thinking is what is needed now. And this must begin with the realisation that despite the legacy of a past scarred by suffering, the Jamaican people are richly endowed with the virtues of faith, courage, foresight and the will to survive. They address the afflictions of the times with a candour, logic, and wisdom that have clearly been formed in the 'university of life'.
Being part of the tripartite mechanism that must lead the productivity revolution in Jamaica, the private sector is showing all the signs of selfishness in respect of the urgent need for economic development of the country -- a country that "is broke and in need of an IMF deal in order to meet its obligations", according to the editorial in one of the daily newspapers.
Perhaps those who diffuse doom have nothing to lose. Some clearly will always be able to pick up a job whatever the state of the economy. There are others, perhaps, who are rich enough who have nothing to worry about personally. But these are in the minority. The vast majority of us continue to be plagued by the possibility of unemployment and reduction in the standard of living.
What needs to be understood and appreciated is that the Jamaican businessman, like our native politician, and the Jamaican middle class, like the Jamaican working class, are all in the same soup. Everyone is responsible. Everyone is accountable.
Labour productivity in Jamaica has declined on average by 3.2 per cent annually between 2002 and 2011. What is more, Jamaica's labour productivity growth rate in comparison to other countries in the region continues to be poor.
In 2003, it was 0.5 per cent compared to 1.2 per cent and 11.1 per cent for Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively. In 2011, it was -0.2 per cent compared to 1.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent for Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively.
Labour Minister Derrick Kellier is correct in warning that "Jamaica has nowhere going without a rise in the levels of productivity growth". And the IMF, which has been in place long enough to attract a great deal of comment, echoed a similar sentiment through the head of its mission to Jamaica.
In a press release after the signing of the staff-level agreement, Jan Kees Martijn had this to say: "Over the last three decades, the Jamaican economy has experienced very low economic growth, declining productivity, and reduced international competitiveness."
From this labour market perspective, Jamaica clearly has no time to waste in turning around its poor productivity trend.
But if those in control of the commanding heights of the economy are predicting economic decline of between 2.5 per cent and five per cent in 2013, with all the attendant negative consequences, what chance is there of realising improvement in our productivity culture, to be accompanied by a sustainable solution to the country's escalating economic and external vulnerabilities and imbalances? This, it seems to me, is the great challenge from the private sector to the Government's growth agenda.
I hasten to say, however, that I do not subscribe to the view that would discount the importance of the private sector to the long-term development of the country in the interest of the majority. But neither will I argue from this firm commitment to the indefensible claim that because it is considered the "engine of growth" it can dictate to our elected governors what the shape, size and model of the strategic vehicle should be to drive economic development.
Judging by the public display this past week of the leaders of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, and the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, if times get harder in this country and the perception of increasing deterioration deepens, there is no telling which way many minds will turn.
There is then, the need for statesmanlike vision of the future of Jamaica by all well-thinking Jamaicans. And the sooner we embrace the inescapable strategy of mobilisation of the vast majority around co-operative action, self-development and sustained application, the better off we all will be.