AT times like these, it is easy to become pessimistic and dejected. The news focuses on painting a grim picture while people talk on verandahs and on social networks about what is going wrong and how bad things will get. Sometimes focusing only on the negative possibilities can be self-fulfilling. I believe we must be balanced by looking for the upside and working hard to realise that.
While another debt exchange is disappointing, especially so soon after the first one, it provides a chance to ensure that mistakes are not repeated. The last exchange provided breathing room by lowering interest payments but it was also sold as a way to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio, which it did not do. The same is being said this time around, and we must ensure that we pursue that because it is a positive outcome that can make a large difference in Jamaica's trajectory.
More important, however, is economic growth. Reducing the debt alone will not automatically reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio if GDP shrinks. Growth has to come from somewhere, and tax packages shrink GDP instead of expanding it. This means that investment must take place in new ventures, education and other areas that will contribute to growth.
Capital has traditionally been lazy in Jamaica, seeking out government bonds paying high interest rates instead of seeking out investment opportunities in businesses. Entrepreneurs have always complained about the lack of access to capital, but that is about to change. After a second debt exchange and even lower yields to come, lots of capital will be seeking out better returns. Bonds are also seen as far more risky than in the past, so backing some good ideas with solid teams could be safer from a risk-adjusted standpoint.
I am optimistic, not just because of this new access to capital that I believe will materialise, but also because my involvement in the Flow Technology In Schools competition as a judge opened my eyes to what the next generation will be able to contribute. We live in a technology-enabled world, and the education system must incorporate different forms of technology to increase the cross-cultural experience of students and raise their levels of efficiency.
There is no doubt in my mind that this competition has exposed the country to future entrepreneurs and researchers who will be able to contribute significantly to the growth of the country via new businesses or ways to improve the education system. They will also help to showcase Jamaica's abilities in various areas of technology.
No longer can we rely only on bauxite, tourism and remittances to be our biggest foreign currency earners. We must step up our technology push and go far beyond call centres when talking about becoming an ICT powerhouse.
The competition shows there is no shortage of creativity and passion in our schools, which are a reflection of our society. The talent is there to be uncovered, nurtured and allowed to blossom. It requires support and recognition to be able to be a major driver of growth.
If these teachers and students can use the limited resources they have and see positive gains, then very few of us have an excuse for not trying to play a role in the growth of Jamaica.
David Mullings was the first Future Leaders representative for the USA on the Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board. He can be found at facebook.com/InteractiveDialogue and Twitter.com/davidmullings