KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) president, John Mahfood, says the country is on the “right track” towards achieving higher levels of sustainable economic growth and development.
He said that the Government’s record trillion-dollar budget for fiscal year 2023/24, represents the culmination of significant economic reforms undertaken over the past eight years.
The president noted that the reforms have resulted in a gradual reduction in the country’s debt and balance of payments and a corresponding increase in economic growth.
Mahfood says this out-turn “is allowing the Government to [generate significant] budgets,” adding that based on current developments, “the Jamaican people are now going to be seeing the benefits of that hard work and sacrifice”.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, indicated in his 2023/24 Budget Debate presentation on March 7 that the economy is estimated to have expanded by 3.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2022, “signalling the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”.
He further said the economy officially grew by 5.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2022, 4.8 per cent in the second quarter, and 6.5 per cent in the first quarter.
“This follows economic expansion of 6.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2021; 5.9 per cent in the third quarter of 2021, and a record 14.2 per cent recovery in the second quarter of 2021,” the minister added.
Mahfood says based on this pattern, “I think that we are looking forward to a good 2023/24, in terms of economic development and growth”.
“The Government has said [that] we are back to the pre-COVID level [of out-turns], and I see no reason why, [for] the foreseeable future, the country should not keep growing and prospering. It may not happen overnight, but I think we are on the right track,” he added.
Mahfood highlighted several programmed provisions outlined in the Budget, which he describes as key standouts.
These include investments earmarked to further build out road and water infrastructure, which he expects will make Jamaica more competitive over the ensuing years; the US$215-million investment in irrigation for Pedro Plains in St Elizabeth, which he describes as a “very good move”.
“We know that St Elizabeth produces [much]… of our fresh produce. But they are hampered by the fact that they rely [mainly] on rainfall, and as a result of that, it’s ‘stops and starts’, in terms of their ability to really benefit economically from [their cultivations]. This will go a long way in protecting the food security of Jamaica and provide a basis for the farmers in the area to really become financially viable,” Mahfood argued.
He further cites the announced turnaround in the National Water Commission’s (NWC) fortunes, and their ability to operate independently of Government support as “excellent”.
“That will bode well for the future of water supply for rural areas and people who are not now receiving water,” he added.
Mahfood also welcomed the announced waiving of HEART/NSTA Trust fees for programmes up to Level IV (Associate Degree), as well as the 44 per cent minimum wage increase, describing these as two “good moves”.
“Hopefully, it will mean that school leavers [and others] who are seeking jobs, will be able to [receive] training from HEART, will be encouraged by the increase in the minimum wage, and will now join the workforce,” he said.
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