Crime-wary Jamaica sees confidence drops
CONFIDENCE in the economic prospects of the country remained stable amongst business leaders and consumers, but a majority cite crime as a red flag for the nation’s economic outlook. The findings were released in the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Business & Consumer Indices for the third quarter of 2023 under the theme ‘Business in a Crime-Free Environment’ on Tuesday.
“One of the key factors that is depressing the level of confidence that consumers have in the economy and amongst the business sector is the level of crime,” said pollster and chief executive officer of Market Research Services Limited Don Anderson while presenting the data.
Responses were collected from 635 consumers and input from over 100 firms across various sectors between June and September 2023. In a comparative analysis of the third quarter of 2022 and 2023, the consumer confidence index dropped slightly to 159.9 points from 160.3 points, while business confidence improved slightly to 140 points, moving from 137 points.
“Nearly six out of every 10 consumers interviewed, 58 per cent cited crime as the number one problem facing Jamaica at this time,” Anderson revealed.
Forty-three per cent of all the businesses that were interviewed said crime and violence were the number one issue that needed to be addressed urgently, and a significant number of businesses believed that the crime situation would worsen over the next 12 months. Sixty per cent of consumers who cited crime as the top issue felt the crime would get worse over the next 12 months, while 11 per cent felt it would get better.
Key solutions outlined by consumers to address the issue of crime were as follows: 34 per cent of consumers suggested providing more jobs for young people; 30 per cent said by providing more programmes for the unemployed; 29 per cent said by having more stringent penalties and fines for crimes; another 29 per cent said to clamp down on corruption; 27 per cent said to provide better-paying jobs for youth; and 26 per cent suggested bringing back capital punishment.
Suggested solutions from businesses included better policing, more jobs for young people, more stringent penalties and fines for crimes, and a clampdown on corruption.
Consumers also cited unemployment, poverty, corruption, favouritism, and an unstable foreign exchange market as all contributing to the erosion of consumer confidence in the next 12 months. There was no movement in the number of consumers who believed business conditions would get better in 12 months, but more people felt the business conditions would worsen in 12 months, approximately 51.8 per cent of consumers compared to 40.9 per cent in 2022.
While the Consumer Confidence Index for current economic conditions witnessed a slight uptick, both current and expected job prospects showed a consistent downward trend. Current job availability dropped by 3.1 per cent, while expected job opportunities fell by 2.1 per cent. Expected job prospects also witnessed a decline from 35.2 percent in 2022 to 25.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2023.
“Consumers are no more positive about their own situation than they were a year ago,” Anderson underscored.
Businesses, however, expressed cautious optimism about improved business conditions in the next 12 months, with 51 per cent maintaining a positive outlook. The businesses reported mixed profit expectations, with 25 per cent anticipating better-than-expected profits, while 61 per cent expected business as usual. Notably, the number of those expecting worse profits declined to 13.4 per cent, marking an improvement from 18.6 per cent in the previous year.
“In the third quarter of 2022, 55 per cent expected the economy to get better. The significant fall to 41.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2023 signals a significant change, with fewer businesses expecting the economy to improve,” Anderson remarked.
Twenty-one per cent of businesses, however, said business conditions would worsen in 12 months. In addition to crime, businesses also added a lack of incentives, the migration of skilled workers, and a lack of production to their list of reasons for a dip in confidence within the next 12 months.