OPPOSITION spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade Lisa Hanna is urging the Government to join hands with the Opposition and the private sector to seek growth solutions by pushing a foreign policy which focuses on economic development.
Hanna, in her 2021/22 sectoral debate presentation in the House of Representatives Tuesday, said the best way to do this is to promote international trade policy through proactive approaches.
“In other words, it's time for Jamaica to seize the economic growth solutions global trade has made available to us. Good things don't come to those who wait but to those who get up and get them,” she stated.
The St Ann South Eastern Member of Parliament pointed to value-added agriculture, which she said would benefit small farmers and, by extension, the economy. “The growth of several developing countries is propelled by agricultural exports. In Jamaica we are increasingly dependent on food imports while not realising our potential for exports. Instead, the prevailing policy has resulted in reduced exports, no rationale in crop selection, price instability for farmers and consumers, little or no cold storage, little or no secondary processing of primary produce, no new technology, and we still end up dumping more than 30 per cent of our small farmer's production due to a mismatch between demand and supply. Moving forward we should be laser focused and provide support to agricultural products which have export markets and value-added potential,” she said, noting agricultural innovations in other jurisdictions such as Ghana.She called for the establishment of a national agro-processing facility, listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange and divested to local shareholders in similar fashion as the Wigton model. “By taking this decision, we would signal to the world the importance of the Jamaican brand while simultaneously protecting it from been exploited by other countries,” she said.Hanna also urged the Government to expand trade with China and make Jamaica more consumer-friendly to Asian markets as a whole, but must first roll out first-class broadband Internet service across the island.She said that with the explosion in the growth of the Chinese middle class since 2018, the Chinese are spending more money on leisure activities such as travelling and that Jamaica should act move quickly to tap into this opportunity. She pointed out that work was previously started by the PNP Administration to advance trade relations with China, but 15 years later successive Administrations have not followed through on building out these initiatives.“It's time to follow through,” the MP insisted. She with interest rates at all-time lows, it is time to invest in the real economy. “The GoJ (Government of Jamaica) should not just operate, but their policy should incentivise, facilitate and stimulate with seed capital if necessary,” she remarked.Hanna said, too, that the Government should look to implement proposals to adopt and implement the international trademark registration system; review and remove primary production and export costs applicable to produce administered by the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA) ; and finalise the implementation of Cabinet's decision in early 2019 to remove some items from the list of items that now require import/export licenses and permits. She stressed that these policies are primarily administrative and incur no costs.