Stop fulminating and promote investment

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

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Whenever a country is doing badly economically there is always an immaturity in its political culture.

This immaturity is evident when politicians in Opposition believe that their role is simply to oppose anything the Government proposes, even though they would be pursuing the exact policy if they were in government.

In addition, some politicians do not know or adhere to the policies of the political party and government to which they belong. Jamaica is a case in point.

Part of the damage caused by immaturity of the political culture is the lack of continuity of policy when governments change. Not everybody gets it.

Industry and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton sought to interrupt the sectoral debate presentation of Dr Kenneth Baugh by calling out across the floor in the House that he warned the Golding Government not to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). In contrast, Dr Baugh explained his support for the EPA in a sober and constructive manner. In case it escaped Mr Hylton's attention, the EPA is the policy of successive People's National Party (PNP) governments and is a consensus with the Jamaica Labour Party. In his flagrant disregard for the policy of his party and Government, Mr Hylton has exhibited neither political maturity nor party discipline, being in contradiction with Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister AJ Nicholson.

The EPA process, a case of political maturity in Caricom, started in Jamaica with Messrs PJ Patterson and KD Knight, passed to Mrs Portia Simpson Miller and on to Mr Bruce Golding and Dr Baugh. In Barbados, it started with Mr Owen Arthur and Dame Miller, then passed to Messrs David Thompson and Chris Sinckler, who piloted the Bill through the House of Assembly. Maturity prevailed in those cases and there has been continuity of policy.

Is it theoretically possible that the entire Caricom policymaking process is wrong and Mr Hylton is correct? All the Caricom governments signed the EPA in 2008 and none have withdrawn, nor have any revisions been made.

Mr Hylton's complaint is about the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, which means that if more favourable terms are given to other countries then they should also be extended to the European Union (EU). What Mr Hylton needs to understand is that Caricom will not give more favourable market access to other countries because they are more competitive than the EU. No way would Caricom want to give even better market access to India, China, Brazil, Canada, and the United States. Caricom has not signed any trade agreements since the EPA, and does not look likely to do so in the foreseeable future.

What the minister of industry and commerce needs to do is to stop fulminating and explain to Jamaica the following two issues.

First, why under the Cotonou Agreement did Caricom concede one-way preferential treatment, on which Lomé conventions were based, and agree to reciprocal trade that set the parameters for the EPA?

Second, given that the EPA exists, what has the minister done to take advantage of the opportunities it has created? Nearly all other Caricom countries have EPA implementation units for this purpose.

Less fulmination and more promotion of investment and exports is what the Jamaican economy needs.




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