The new world has been here for a while nowSunday, October 10, 2021
In China, November 11 is annually regarded as 'Singles Day' — the unofficial antithesis to Valentine's Day (February 14), started in the 1990s by single college students. Today this tradition is a mega event for noticeable online shopping.
On November 11, 2020, Alibaba and JD.com — China's biggest “e-tailers” — recorded sales of more than US$115 billion, a record for a single day anywhere in the world. To put things in perspective, in one day, two Chinese companies sold more than 20 times the national budget of Jamaica.
“Of the US$1.8 trillion of new global economic activity in 2013, China alone accounted for US$1 trillion, or 60 per cent of it,” reported Ricard Dobbs, 'No Ordinary Disruption' 2015. That country is now the world's largest manufacturer — a country that liberalised its economy approximately 30 years ago.
In 1980 China had a per capita income of US$200, today it is 40 times bigger, at US$8,242, with one of the fastest-growing middle classes in the world. Between 2000 to 2018 China's middle class is estimated to have grown from three per cent of its population to more than 50 per cent, with 700 million Chinese. This is twice the population of the United States (The World Bank).
It was not just China. Between 1990 and 2010, the world's centre of economic gravity had moved more quickly than at any other time in recorded history. Emerging economies such as India, Indonesia, Russia, and Brazil are now major forces in global manufacturing.
The truth is there is no new world coming, it has been here for a while now; ever changing and dynamic with no fixed rules for success or guaranteed patterns of protections to give us a head start on larger countries. This is why it was imperative to orient our nation's approaches around preparations for our youth to succeed in the global marketplace.
Between 2013-2016, while I was minister of youth and culture, before we implemented new programmes we went around the country to engage and listen to over 3,000 youth, including thousands online. Coming out of those consultations we added eight new programmes at the National Youth Service, involving personal development, entrepreneurship, private sector on-the-job placement through memoranda of understanding with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), scholarships for higher education, agricultural training, and grants for rural youth, while at all times reserving 10 per cent of all spaces for youth with disabilities.
In November 2015 we led the process of developing a national programme for youth at risk, which would bring together the resources of the Government of Jamaica with private sector firms to prepare and ensure placement for some 10,000 young people over a three-year period.
Now that we have sound macroeconomic foundations, it is time to succeed and move our per capita income to higher levels for our people. For this to happen we have to position our local markets globally. As decision-makers we must have a clear understanding of what this world looks like. Our mission is to ensure that we prepare ourselves to take full advantage as global producers, rather than consumers marginalised by a world without boundaries.
Today's world is rooted in technology, with an economic axis that has shifted to the East, and driven by the millennials — that is individuals between the age of 16 and 36, accounting for some 1.8 billion worldwide, making up 23 per cent of the global population. There are roughly 80 million of them in the US alone, who spend US$600 billion every year. In less than 10 years, three out of every four workers (75 per cent) globally will be a millennial.
In 2020, millennials had the most spending power of any generation in our history, close to US$2.5 trillion, US$17 billion of which was spent on pet food and pet care.
Mobile commerce is a massive contributing factor to their purchasing habit, as 73 per cent of this generation make purchases using their smartphones online, and 75 per cent of them say that social media influences their product purchases more than television advertisements. Where are we positioned to take advantage of these markets?
Since 2014, the Universal Access Fund has been doing a good job in providing tablets to schools. Recently, they have added an additional 189 Wi-Fi hotspots across the 63 constituencies. But, let's move further. We need to provide free Wi-Fi at every single school across the country, at every transport centre, at every public market, at the airports, at every police station and post office, in every community with community hot spots and parks. In other words, let's give our people the tools so that they are not left behind.
Jamaica needs to become one big hot spot. So, the child of a farmer who has graduated university with a degree in marketing can add significant value to the agricultural industry by connecting her mother with overseas markets previously unavailable.
With an exchange rate of $147 to US$1, agriculture is now the industry with the best competitive advantage against imports. Millennials are health-conscious individuals, fitness, wellness, and nutrition are big on their agenda, that is organic chicken (yard fowl), organic beef (grass-fed cows), chemical-free vegetables are on the menu. From farm to table is a concept that is trending across the world and even here in Jamaica. There are a lot of niches and export markets for these products which have a very high value-added status.
We have over 200,000 people employed in agriculture, but not enough young people involved taking it into a new direction using technology to create better linkages with local and overseas markets. Furthermore, we must encourage our youth to get involved in direct farming for succession planning.
Jamaica has the world's best coffee, ginger, Scotch bonnet pepper, and cocoa (chocolate), so let us give them priority access to land at concessionary terms and start up businesses that give them the right head start.
We must retain our skilled youth in Jamaica. We are losing too many of our best and brightest to overseas opportunities. Access to affordable housing is essential if we are to keep them focused on building Jamaica. One approach is to have the National Housing Trust (NHT) build rental units specifically for our tertiary graduates. These rental units would be available only to our young people between the ages of 20 to 30, during which time the rental rate would be 25 per cent of their salary single or combined with whatever that salary happens to be. Our young people should be assured that whenever they leave college they can find a place which is of a quality standard to provide the stability to build out their lives at a price they can afford. As the asset remains with the NHT, the rental cost would still be contributing positively to their bottom line, while giving our young people an opportunity they truly deserve.
With the Jamaica youth unemployment rate standing at 20 per cent, we must pivot to taking a world view, not a Jamaican-centred or Caricom-only limited vision. In positioning Jamaica for growth, our youth must recognise that, although we are next door to the US, the world's largest market, it is the young man in China that is shipping things to the US, rather than ourselves, which is our competition. Broadening their horizons outside of Caricom to go after service opportunities in population-rich countries is imperative if we are to improve their livelihood and long-term economic future.
Lisa Hanna is Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern, People's National Party spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade, and a former Cabinet member.