20/20 vision needed for Vision 2030

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

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The short-term goal remains intact for five per cent growth by 2020 — now being termed 5 in 3, instead of the 5 in 4 of 2016 — yet we wonder whether enough attention is being paid to the longer-term Vision 2030.

That National Development Plan was presented to the nation in 2009 by the Bruce Golding Administration after its birth during the previous Portia Simpson Miller Administration, under the auspices of the Planning Institute of Jamaica.

Jamaica is not alone in having a 2030 vision. Several other countries, such as Trinidad and Tobago, Qatar and Kenya, have their own Vision 2030.

In our vision, Jamaica's goal is to attain developed world status with a society that will be “the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business”. The plan goes into quite a lot of detail about how various interconnected sectors of the society will improve, including the economy, education, health, environment, and safety. It is also envisaged that Jamaica will have a per capita income of slightly more than US$23,000 per year by 2030.

Eight years into the Vision, a casual observer could be forgiven for believing that the plan has died a natural death. Even the multilateral agencies seem to have their doubts.

In a press conference earlier this year, visiting World Bank Caribbean Country Director Tahseen Sayed was asked if it was still possible for Jamaica to reach that target. “Inshallah,” she said, “God willing.”

In 2007, Jamaica had a nominal per capita GDP of about US$4,800 per year, according to the Vision. Today, thanks to low and even negative growth in the economy, per capita income remains about the same, at US$5,000, based on figures from the International Monetary Fund.

This puts us just below Namibia and Iraq, and just above the global average for developing contries of about US$4,900. But we are also well below the world average of about US$10,000, not to mention the rate of US$44,000 for the developed economies we want to join in 2030.

There is a clever trick in economics called the Rule of 70, where you can divide the number 70 by the percentage of growth per year to calculate how many years it will take to double your GDP. If all goes well, by 2020 we should have five per cent growth per year.

Using the Rule of 70, it would take us 14 years to double our GDP per capita — providing our population remained constant.

That means that, by 2034, we would have a per capita income of about US$10,000, which is way off target.

But even if — inshallah — we were able to meet the US$23,000 target, how likely is it that we could be considered a developed economy, given that most developed economies currently have a per capita income much higher than that?

Right now, The Bahamas — not yet a developed economy — has a per capita income of about US$25,000.

As it stands now, it appears impossible for us to reach the target by 2030. Not even Chinese-style economic growth could get us there. All that is likely to happen is that whichever Government is in power in 2030 will be blamed by the Opposition for dropping the ball.

But the problem is the ball was never even picked up — so it never had the opportunity of being dropped.

As our anthem says, “Give us vision lest we perish.” Isn't it time to have a vision that is based in reality?

It takes 20/20 vision to get to Vision 2030.




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