Clarke sharpens focus on productivity-enhancing investments
KINGSTON, Jamaica-Finance Minister Nigel Clarke says the Government of Jamaica is intentionally working to improve productivity hours in both the public and private sectors as it carries out islandwide infrastructural and development works.
Speaking at the Mayberry Forum on Wednesday, January 17, Clarke explained that ongoing public reforms, such as the digitisation of public sector services and the introduction of enterprise systems for human resource management, are all geared at improving output and boosting the overall productivity in the country.
More meaningful impact on productivity will also be achieved through road infrastructure projects the Government is undertaking, Clarke said, while noting that the Government will look more seriously at increasing the number of public buses to reduce unproductive hours.
“We are going to be intentionally focused on public investments that are productivity-enhancing. For example, in the transportation industry, the more time people spend commuting to and from work, the less productive time that exists.
“If the 1.3 million employed spend an average of two hours commuting, that’s 2.6 million hours. That works out to be roughly 100,000 days and if you divide that by 365 days per year…that’s a lifetime,” he said.
Clarke added that the Government is committed to shaving off at least half an hour to 45 minutes of travel time for employed individuals through more road infrastructure works and further investments in public transport, public health and the education system.
Last year, 50 new buses arrived on the island, increasing the Jamaica Urban Transit Company’s (JUTC) bus fleet to 315. The shipment included five 45-seater electric buses, forty 45-seater diesel buses and five diesel buses with 34 seats for disabled passengers.
During the 2023/24 budget debate presentation, Clarke announced that $40 billion has been set aside for road network projects over the next two years.
“That’s on top of any highway investments that we are pursuing. We seek to make a major public investment in a north coast road from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay. That’s likely to be the single-largest infrastructure investment project in Jamaica and we hope to partner with the private sector by inviting persons to bid,” he said.
The Government also has active projects in the public health sectors. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton broke ground on the $5.5-billion Spanish Town Hospital redevelopment project.
The development project is a partnership involving the Jamaican Government, Inter-American Development Bank, and the European Union and will last for 24 months. In addition to the Spanish Town project, there are over 10 clinics that the ministry will be focused on improving.
“That’s going to be built simultaneously with the Western Children’s Hospital and the Cornwall Regional Rehabilitation Centre. Productivity is enhanced by well-placed and thoughtful human capital investments.
“Our plan to take a multifaceted approach towards productivity-enhancing reforms at a societal level which includes the education and health sectors,” Clarke said.
He added that digitisation reforms have already begun in the public sector. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, employers in both the private and public sectors were challenged to operate outside of traditions.
Some private firms responded quickly to the containment measures implemented by the Government and decided to implement a work-from-home programme even before the Ministry of Labour began urging employers to start implementing flexi-work arrangements.
“During the pandemic, we were faced with a problem that we never had before. We needed to distribute resources to the workforce because people could not go in office and do normal paperwork. We had to put a digital solution in place.
“Of course, we had some teething pains at the backend, but within weeks we were able to get resources to nearly 400,000 persons. That’s productivity and it was done in a way so that no one was left behind,” Clarke said.