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VIDEO: Great hope

PSOJ optimistic economy can improve in less than 5 years

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor — Publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 08, 2014    

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THE Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) yesterday expressed optimism of a turnaround in the economy, even as it admitted that businesses are hurting under the country's current arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The recovery, according to PSOJ President Christopher Zacca, can be achieved in a few years from now. However, that will depend on the Government and the private sector working in harmony to drive growth.

"Jamaica can thrive in under five years, but it requires the entire society to come together and do the right thing," Zacca told journalists at the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

"If you have a partnership, each partner must play their role. The Government must set the legal and regulatory framework while facilitating businesses, and businesses must take that ball and run with it," said Zacca.

The PSOJ president, along with one of his vice-presidents, Don Wehby, and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Chung were guests at the Exchange where they shared their views on Jamaica's performance under the IMF agreement as well as their recommendations for setting the economy on a growth path.

Topping their list of priorities is the rule of law.

"The most fundamental role of any government is to establish and maintain the rule of law," Zacca said, adding that it was more important than reducing the cost of energy.

"A robust rule of law delivers two very strong outcomes with positive effects on economic growth and development; one, the improvement of investor confidence, and two, the reduction in the cost of doing business," he said.

A strong rule of law, he explained, has three basic components — the reduction of crime; timely, fair and effective delivery of justice; and the elimination of corruption between the public and the private sectors.

He cited a 2011 World Bank study that concluded that Jamaica would experience an annual increase of 5.4 per cent in per capita GDP, if the country's crime rate could be cut to the level prevailing in Costa Rica.

That, he said, would result in the creation of more jobs. Chung agreed and pointed out that with crime levels down companies could introduce more shifts.

But the three PSOJ executives also highlighted the importance of tax reform, energy cost reduction and the elimination of bureaucracy — a combination of which, they emphasised, was needed to make the country globally competitive and drive economic growth.

"Bureaucracy is probably one of the biggest deterrents to investments, not only locally but overseas," said Wehby, who is also group CEO of GraceKennedy.

He pointed to the World Bank's 2014 Ease of Doing Business Index which ranks Jamaica at 94 of 189 countries, noting that the position was a slide three places down from the year before.

"When a country is ranked 94, and the year before we were ranked 91 it is obvious that while work is being done we are moving in the wrong direction," Wehby said.

"What we need to do as a nation — Government and private sector — is set ourselves a target. In other words, we need to say that in another three or four years, instead of 94 we need to be at 40, and you develop a strategic plan and an operating plan where we can track our progress in terms of getting that 94 down to 40 and then to a better score after," Wehby said.

"To me, that is a game-changer for the Jamaican economy, if we can remove the bureaucracy," Wehby added.

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