Executive director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) Dr Damien King has cautioned that Jamaica's achievement of macroeconomic stability should not be seen as an end in itself, but rather a springboard for realising economic growth.
Dr King was part of a panel discussion during the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) President's Forum held on Tuesday exploring the theme 'Beyond Macroeconomic Stability; Igniting Growth'.
The other members of the panel were Charles Ross, chairman, president and CEO of Sterling Asset Management Limited; Terry-Ann Segree, strategy, programming and innovation lead officer at Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); and Wilfred Baghaloo, deals lead, PricewaterhouseCooper Jamaica. The moderator was Eva Lewis, country officer & corporate bank head, CITI Jamaica.
Pointing to the aptness of the theme, Dr King noted that the premise underlines that "now that we have economic stability, what do we need to get economic growth? And it seems to imply that stability is something we want to have for its own sake rather than stability is the key and possibly a sufficient condition for economic growth."
The economist also argued that the measures taken to achieve economic stability must be adhered to achieve economic growth. While pointing to the need to have improvements in policy, he also highlighted the benefit of having institutional strengthening entrenched in law such as fiscal responsibility legislation, independence of the central bank, inflation targeting, and selection of public boards.
"Because the changes have been institutionalised, it means that the improved economic environment and the improved management is now embedded in our society and, therefore, it's going to be persistent. So, if we continue to make changes at the institutional level then what happens in Jamaica going forward will not be left to the vagaries of a particular or future government or a particular minister of finance," Dr King explained.
Though he said that these pre-conditions created an environment for investment, King said that attention now needs to turn to underinvestment in infrastructure and education.
However, when challenged that Jamaica's investment is on par with that of its Caribbean neighbours, the CAPRI head noted that the "the outcomes from education" should reflect the investment.
Wilfred Baghaloo, on the other hand, said that achieving growth will require that policymakers make "the right investment choices". He also contended that while Jamaica has realised macroeconomic stability, the discussions now need to focus on the "micro[economic] discussions" relevant to average Jamaicans.
On another note, he also reasoned that growth can be achieved by selecting winning industries for investment.
"We have a winner, we have a winner in tourism. I don't think we have maximised it enough," Baghaloo stated, adding: "So we have to spend more time in tourism and probably create a 360-degree local content policy around tourism."
Moreover, he said that tourism presents an opportunity for Jamaica to develop its export market within its own borders.
At the same time, while pointing out that other countries have achieved economic success by developing local content policy around particular industries and sectors, he shared that "Jamaica is one of only a few countries in the Caribbean that doesn't have local content law."
Using the linkage between tourism and agriculture as a segue, IDB's Segree noted that tourism also presented an opportunity to explore addressing food security issues while building out agro-processing capabilities.
From the standpoint of an multilateral development partner, she said that the IDB is focused on two key strategies as outlined in its country strategy for Jamaica – reactivating the productive sector and mapping a social agenda.
Commenting on the latter, Segree said "education is at the core", but that the bank will also focus on supporting infrastructure development needs "to provide greater access [for] inclusion".