Let's face our challenges united as one nation


Let's face our challenges united as one nation

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

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There's no country in the world that is free of imperfections; be they economic, social, cultural, governance, institutional, or infrastructural.

However, what makes a big difference in people's quality of life is the approach to remedying those imperfections.

Here in Jamaica our experiences have been varied over many decades. Certainly, since Independence in 1962, our existence has been determined by our awesome display of grit, determination, and resolve.

Indeed, our journey through slavery, Emancipation, universal adult suffrage, and self-government has forged a Jamaican spirit that has equipped us to triumph over great adversity.

We will need this Jamaican spirit in 2020 if we are to make substantial gains on the improvements now being experienced in the country as a whole.

There's no challenging the fact that our economy is on the mend, even though growth, at the moment, is tepid.

Just over a week ago we had reason to comment in this space on the Government's response to rating agency Moody's upgrade of Jamaica's credit rating from B3 to B2, as well as the agency's announcement that it has changed the island's outlook from positive to stable.

The key factors influencing that upgrade, Moody's explained, were Jamaica's vigorous commitment to “fiscal consolidation and structural reforms” as well as the improvement of “debt structure limits risks associated with a high level of government debt”.

That development, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke pointed out, “represents an endorsement of the continued progress made by Jamaica in sound economic management and reduction of its public debt”.

Over the year, as well, we saw the growth of the Junior Market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) to 41 listed companies and 44 securities. Of note is the fact that the main exchange has 46 companies listed and 77 securities. That has driven JSE senior executive Andrea Kelly to predict that if the listings on the Junior Market continue at the current pace they will, in short order, overtake the main market.

One financial expert who is intimately involved in developments relating to the JSE told us that he has never been this busy for many years.

Significantly, too, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica reported that, in January 2019, the island achieved a new record-low unemployment of eight per cent — a reduction of 1.6 percentage points relative to 9.6 per cent in January 2018.

At the same time, we saw where, by March 31, 2019, our debt-to-GDP ratio had fallen to its lowest level of 96 per cent, the first time below 100 per cent in almost 20 years.

These, of course, are positive developments to be celebrated, but they should not cause us to rest, as we have much more to do to get this economy to the point at which everyone, regardless of their station, benefits.

Our hope is that this year will not produce any geopolitical shocks that have the potential to derail our achievements.

Against that background, we reiterate our position that the Government and the Opposition need to collaborate on effective methods to combat crime — the main irritant in our country at this time. Both sides need to discard their political spectacles and think country above party.

Every time that we work as a team we have triumphed as a nation. More now than ever we must hold hands and face our challenges as one nation.

A new year brings new opportunities and new ways of doing things. Let's make the most of it.

We wish all our readers, advertisers, and all Jamaica a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

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