Economic Growth Council report must not gather dust on a shelf

Economic Growth Council report must not gather dust on a shelf

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

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Last week, we welcomed the long-awaited report of the Economic Growth Council (ECG) and stressed that, while the ideas offered were not freshly minted, what needed to happen was implementation.

Jamaica is full of acres of shelves with multitudes of reports and recommendations which are covered up under mounds of dust. The beneficiaries have been paid consultants and committee members. There are billions of dollars in grants that remain unspent over the years because the myriad projects for which they were negotiated have not been implemented or, in some cases, poorly implemented, As this as economic growth continues to elude our country.

The key to high rates of economic growth on a sustainable basis is the simultaneous application of imagination in the public sector and in the private sector. In the private sector imagination takes the form of entrepreneurship, and in the public sector it is establishment of a business conducive to entrepreneurship.

Economic growth is not possible, even with the best private sector, if the public sector is not fully aligned in a supportive way.

Jamaica’s poor economic growth record is not a reflection of a lack of Jamaican entrepreneurship but is the direct result of a failure by successive governments to create and maintain a facilitating and predictable business environment. What constitutes such an environment is not new, but is old, long-established practice.

If the EGC insists on implementation we have a real chance of growth this time. We are hoping that the report will be seriously debated on a national level and other ideas suggested. Indeed, we are all in this thing together.

In this regard, we suggest that the country should take a collective look at the recent World Bank report entitled ‘Toward a Blue Economy: A promise for Sustainable Growth in the Caribbean’ which, we believe, points to the enormous potential of maritime resources in the Caribbean.

It estimates the economic value of the Caribbean Sea to the countries of the region at US$407 billion per year or 18 per cent of the region’s total GDP inclusive of all forms of economic activity notably fishing, transport, trade, tourism, mining and energy.

The value of the Blue Economy is projected to nearly double by 2050 if properly nurtured to minimise threats to its viability emanating from overuse, pollution and environmental degradation by natural disasters and climate change. For example, 70 per cent of beaches are already eroded and almost 80 per cent of coral is now dead.

The most pernicious threat is man-made pollution. For example, 85 per cent of wastewater is dumped untreated into the sea. Garbage of every kind is flushed into the Caribbean Sea to the extent that 46,000 pieces of plastic are afloat on every square mile of sea. If there is no abatement, plastics will surpass the weight of fish in the sea by 2030.

Ironically, the ideas about the Blue Economy are not new, they were explained by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) as far back as in 2014 and discussed in that year by the Caricom Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED).

The key is implementation and this, if it happens, would be new.

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