Holness urges region to be more disciplined in implementing growth policies

Friday, November 17, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Prime Minister Andrew Holness has underscored the need for Caribbean governments to be more disciplined in implementing policies that can generate higher levels of sustainable economic growth.

“We have chosen policies that have increased our debt (and) are more aligned with short-term consumption. We have brought on ourselves a literal catastrophe, which has made us now have to realise that we cannot continue with high debt, and we must now accept the policies that require us to have a more long-term consideration,” Holness said.

The prime minister was speaking at the closing panel discussion on 'Challenges and Opportunities in the Caribbean', at the sixth International Monetary Fund (IMF) High Level Caribbean Forum at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday.

Holness said another challenge inhibiting growth in the region has been the extent to which policies are driven by “a certain political dynamic” that is influenced by poverty.

“The issue for Caribbean nations has been poverty. It's very difficult for politicians who are faced with high levels of poverty to make policy decisions that have a long-term effect. (As such) once you start to talk about policies targeting long-term (effects and outcomes), then you have to consider discipline… you must be consistent. You must have political strength and you have to be disciplined to maintain them,” he emphasised.

While acknowledging that Caribbean economies are straddled with high debt, inefficient bureaucracy and crime, Holness said “the real test will be whether or not governments will adopt and stick to policies that will correct these issues”.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance for The Bahamas, Peter Turnquist, noted that growth in Caribbean countries has stagnated since the 2007/08 global economic recession, arguing that this “reflects the fact that our governments have not been very progressive in developing our economies”.

“We have not developed our human talent to the extent (where) we encourage innovation and creativity in the things that we do,” he added.

Turnquist contended that changing this to generate higher levels of sustainable growth requires innovation within existing and prospective industries.

He further cited the need to use natural resources and develop talents that are available, in the creation of new industries.

“I believe that technology gives us the opportunity to do that. We just have to come out of our mind-set that we are followers instead of creators and innovators,” Turnquist added.

The panel discussion, which also included Grenada's Prime Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell, was moderated by IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde.

It was one of four convened during the conference, which was held under the theme 'Unleashing Growth and Strengthening Resilience in the Caribbean'.

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