Gov't hunts new revenue streamsWednesday, September 09, 2020
BY KIMONE FRANCIS
WITH the country's tourism sector taking a beating as a result of the new coronavirus pandemic, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke says Government is looking to aggressively diversify the economy as the need for jobs and hard currency earnings grow. He made it clear, though, that the tourism sector, which accounts for 10 per cent of the economy, will remain an important source of earnings going forward.
A July report released by the Inter-American Development Bank cautioned that the COVID-19 shock to tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean represents an unprecedented extreme outlier event and said Government interventions to support the sector and citizens must be equally unparalleled.
But Clarke told the Jamaica Observer on Monday, following the swearing-in of himself and three other ministers at King's House in St Andrew, that the idea in this term of the newly elected Administration is to broaden and diversify the economy by looking into new areas. The goal, Clarke said, is to build on gains made in the last Administration when much of the focus had been on putting in place much-needed infrastructure.
“We've made a lot of inroads as far as infrastructure is concerned, with the privatisation of the Norman Manley International Airport, the privatisation of the Kingston Container Terminal [and] the advancement of our free zones legislation. So the opportunity is ripe for us in this term to ensure that logistics and fulfilment become a key engine of economic activity and employment,” said Clarke.
He also anticipates that a significant number of jobs will become available from exploring technology-driven opportunities.
“In addition, the prime minister mentioned [in his acceptance speech] that opportunities that exist in coding and animation are real. Today we have hundreds of Jamaicans who are working in animation and coding and we believe that number could be thousands — or tens of thousands,” the finance minister added.
He also pointed to gains to be made by the Government in ensuring that the country achieves greater domestic food security by diversifying the range of items that can be manufactured locally.
“That kind of diversification is going to be very important in this term for us to create the conditions [where] the private sector — broadly defined, you know entrepreneurs, business people, small, medium and large — sees... and takes advantage of the opportunity to operate in areas that are diverse and areas that are diversified from what has been our traditional sectors in Jamaica,” Clarke stressed.
On Monday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said while the COVID-19 pandemic has created a national crisis, it has also presented an opportunity for the Government to reconfigure and modernise the economy.
“We will improve the business climate and invest to improve competitiveness by reforming Customs, develop the national business portal, and establish business incubators. We will diversify our economy to increase resilience, promote innovation, support youth entrepreneurs, and explore opportunities within the green and blue economies. We will support the development of coding, animation, film, logistics and fulfilment, among other sectors,” Holness said, during his swearing-in ceremony at King's House.
He said the Government will continue to provide financial support to households and businesses to ensure that the country recovers stronger; provide $500 million in grants for micro and community-based businesses through the Social Development Commission, and deploy $1.2 billion in tourism grants to small and medium-sized operators in the tourism sector through the EXIM Bank.
He also said $3 billion will be provided in Agri-Care Support for farmers and fisherfolk over three years, while $10 billion will be disbursed in loan guarantees to support micro, small and medium-sized businesses.
“We will mobilise foreign and domestic investment that improve the delivery of public services or promote innovation while creating jobs. We will launch and complete public/private partnerships for water treatment and storage, sewerage, garbage collection, and infrastructure development. We will list State-owned enterprises on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, giving Jamaicans the opportunity to own Jamaican assets,” Holness noted.
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