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Remove obstacles to growth, please

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Mr Michael Lee-Chin makes some interesting points in the sixth quarterly report of the Economic Growth Council (EGC) issued earlier this week.

Outside of the activities of the EGC since it was established just over two years ago, Mr Lee-Chin, who chairs the council, told the country that despite the positive developments in the economy so far this year, there is much work to be done if we are to attract and retain the type of investments that will help achieve the target of five per cent gross domestid product (GDP) growth by 2020.

One area that needs attention, he said, is the pensions and insurance industries which has over $600 billion, the largest pool of investable funds in the country. This, Mr Lee-Chin pointed out, is approximately one-third of Jamaica's current GDP and the funds are mainly invested in low yield government securities and financial instruments.

“This pool of capital needs to be un-incarcerated,” he argued, as he revealed that the EGC has been imploring the Financial Services Commission (FSC) from 2016 to unlock this pool of long-term capital. “They did in early 2017... a study was requested, which was due at the end of June 2018. We are now told that the scope has been increased, which will put the conclusion now to March of 2019, two years later,” Mr Lee-Chin said, and reiterated the council's plea to the finance minister and the FSC to move on the matter.

We join the council in that call, in the same way that we support the EGC's appeal to the authorities to remove the bureaucracy that is hobbling the development and building application approval process.

That is an issue we have raised in this space before, because we believe that it has an impact on the types of investments that will generate even more growth than the country is now seeing.

In his report Mr Lee-Chin said that the development orders for all parishes, which should have been completed by June 28, 2018, have not been completed in their entirety.

“This can be attributed to a number of factors including delayed receipt of feedback from municipalities and printing of the provisional development orders,” Mr Lee-Chin reported.

Commendably, the EGC — after conducting an investigation of the problem in collaboration with the National Environment and Planning Agency and Jamaica Printing Service — designed strategies that have enabled the printing of all draft development orders by June 24 this year.

In addition, Mr Lee-Chin said that the EGC has been following up with the various municipalities, mayors, ministers and the office of the chief parliamentary council to ensure that the completion of this initiative is expedited in order that the backlog of projects can be cleared to facilitate growth.

That is not asking for too much, and any State official who means this country well would give urgent attention to this matter.

Mr Lee-Chin highlighted a number of other issues that need resolving to set this country on a firmer growth path. Based on what is included in the report, these are not difficult assignments. Let us get them done.