MONTEGO BAY, St James - BUSINESS leaders across western Jamaica have taken a dim view of the country’s growth prospects for this year, following Government’s failure to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In fact, the businessmen say if an agreement is not reached soon with the lending agency, those economic prospects will worsen.
“It is essential that the Government finalises Jamaica’s economic framework with the IMF in short order. This is critical for businesses and enterprises to plan and move forward in 2013 to build the Jamaican economy,” said Davon Crump, the president of the 300-member Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
President of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce Richard Bourke posited that the delay in inking an arrangement with the multilateral lending agency will negatively impact the flow of new overseas investments into the island.
“The main issue with the IMF deal is new investment. Until that is secured (IMF deal), there will be a hesitancy for outside investment coming into the island and that is the key issue where that is concerned,” said Bourke”. We are not going to see significant new development until the IMF deal is secured and there are a lot of deals out there hinging on that.”
Recently, harsh criticisms have been levelled at Finance Minister Peter Phillips by political analysts and members of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) for failure to ink a new pact with the IMF by the end of last year.
But Phillips fired back, heaping some of the blame for the delay on the collapse of previous talks with the JLP Government.
That experience, according to Phillips, had resulted in the IMF insisting that, as many as possible, measures be implemented ahead of a deal being signed.
Yesterday, Nigel Myrie, the president of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he believes that an agreement with the IMF will not be reached within the next two months.
“We won’t see any IMF deal in the short term, not before March. The Government has not taken any real steps to follow through on any precondition of a deal with the IMF. We need to see some of those; pension reform public sector reform among others,” Myrie argued.
He emphasised that there is now a sense of hopelessness among many businesspeople.
“People are barely keeping afloat. In essence, businesses are tethering on the brink. There are real problems on the horizon,” he warned.
Myrie lamented that as the nation enters into a new year, the economy is shrouded with much uncertainty over the dwindling Net Internal Revenue and the slippage of the currency against its international counterparts.
But despite the negative outlook, the business leaders say they will be undertaking a raft of initiatives to boost the local economy.
“The economy of Montego Bay needs a boost, and we intend to support all the initiatives to make this happen. We need to see Montego Bay once again be regarded as the preferred tourist city destination,” Crump argued.
He promised that there will be several initiatives geared at assisting the small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).
“The survival of our SMEs is crucial, some of which have become active Chamber members and we intend to give them a voice,” he emphasised.
“Going forward, the chamber will be focussing our attention on assisting the SMEs. In particular, we will be joining forces with the St James Parish Council to assist in upgrading the People's Arcade along Howard Cook Boulevard, as we see where this can become a hub for micro and small enterprises.”
Meanwhile, the Trelawny business community will be focussing on getting visitors arriving at the Falmouth Cruise Shipping Pier to shop in that historic town.
“The chamber will focus on the operation of the (cruise shipping) port and trying to get more visitors into the town of Falmouth and to prepare Falmouth to be more tourism friendly, that is the key focus for the chamber this year,” Bourke stressed.