How would you grow the econ­omy?

Jamaica Gleaner - - GROWTH & JOBS - – Sasahkay Fair­clough

THE JA­MAICAN econ­omy has been suf­fer­ing from low or no growth for decades. In re­sponse to this, we asked five Ja­maicans of vary­ing ages and oc­cu­pa­tions to sug­gest five ideas each, on how to grow the Ja­maican econ­omy. This is what they had to say:

One way of grow­ing the econ­omy is to fo­cus on grow­ing agribusi­nesses. Agri­cul­ture is a crit­i­cal sec­tor within our econ­omy and many small scale farm­ers and agribusi­nesses lack the fi­nan­cial sup­port to ex­pand. There are some mod­els be­ing used in­ter­na­tion­ally, such as those by the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which is a bank for the poor. We can adopt some of their ideas in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate lend­ing to the sec­tor in or­der to ex­pand farm oper­a­tions, im­prove pro­duc­tion, and ul­ti­mately, growth in the econ­omy.

Our coun­try needs to place greater em­pha­sis on ex­ports. Fo­cus on in­creas­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity.

An im­proved ed­u­ca­tional struc­ture will also go a long way. We need to equip young peo­ple with more mar­ketable/tech­ni­cal skills.

Our Gov­ern­ment needs to cre­ate a more favourable in­vest­ment cli­mate for young en­trepreneurs.

More em­pha­sis needs to be placed on ru­ral de­vel­op­ment. Im­prove the com­mu­nity-based or­gan­i­sa­tions’ ca­pac­ity to lever­age re­sources.

IIIIIThe Gov­ern­ment needs to do more for those in the tourism sec­tor. Do more to ed­u­cate Ja­maicans about the proper way to deal with tourists be­cause many of for­eign­ers feel in­tim­i­dated by lo­cals when they visit, and so they don’t come back.

Re­duce crime. It does not mat­ter how many great ideas we come up with. The fact is, we need more in­vest­ment in the coun­try, and the only way to do this is if peo­ple are not afraid to in­vest. This is not just about for­eign in­vest­ment, but I look at cer­tain places down­town and many peo­ple are un­em­ployed, build­ings are di­lap­i­dated, etc. Com­pa­nies want to go there, but they are afraid of ex­tor­tion, so the peo­ple there are un­know­ingly hurt­ing them­selves. When you de­mand ex­tor­tion money, you drive busi­nesses way. Do away with crime and then ev­ery­thing else can work.

We need more tech­nol­ogy col­leges. More peo­ple need to get in­volved in tech­ni­cal ca­reers. There is a sat­u­ra­tion of tra­di­tional ca­reers, and so many young peo­ple are un­em­ployed. We have enough doc­tors and lawyers, so much so that many are un­em­ployed or paid very lit­tle. Peo­ple need to be aware of this so that they can choose ca­reers that are in de­mand now.

IIIIn­crease Gen­eral Con­sump­tion Tax and do away with in­come tax and other statu­tory de­duc­tions. Busi­nesses should be made to pay a larger amount and in­di­vid­u­als pay a smaller amount. In my opin­ion, if that hap­pens, there would be a greater com­pli­ance from tax pay­ers.

IIn­cen­tives and greater tax breaks for young peo­ple will­ing to get in­volved in farm­ing. We need to eat what we grow and grow what we eat

The Gov­ern­ment needs to put in more ef­fort to reg­u­larise small busi­ness en­ter­prises

Old warn­ings of two is bet­ter than too many should be brought back. There needs to be a more con­scious ef­fort to min­imise the house­holds of the poor.

Rev­enue col­lec­tion agen­cies need to be fully manned. Use Na­tional Youth Ser­vice stu­dents to col­lect the well needed rev­enue in these agen­cies.

IIIIFa­cil­i­tate eas­ier ac­cess to fi­nanc­ing for early-stage en­trepreneurs/MSMEs: Cur­rently, tra­di­tional banks don’t have the ap­petite or the frame­work that al­lows them to pro­vide fi­nanc­ing to earlystage en­trepreneurs who op­er­ate in the non-tra­di­tional sec­tors such as tech­nol­ogy. A com­pany in man­u­fac­tur­ing, for ex­am­ple, will have equip­ment that can be used as col­lat­eral. A tech com­pany, on the other hand, will pri­mar­ily have soft­ware and IP as as­sets which can’t be used to col­lat­er­alise a loan. MSMEs are the true driv­ers of eco­nomic growth

Mar­i­juana: I think le­gal­is­ing mar­i­juana has the po­ten­tial to be our great­est earner of for­eign ex­change and boost to our econ­omy, and we won’t have to rein­vent the wheel. The tem­plate is there from places like Colorado, and we can be 10 times greater than all these other places who have a head start on us be­cause they don’t have as much cul­tural ap­peal as we do.

Im­prove lit­er­acy and ed­u­ca­tion: An ed­u­cated pop­u­la­tion is es­sen­tial for eco­nomic growth in every coun­try.

Make it eas­ier to do busi­ness: Cor­rup­tion, high busi­ness taxes, out­dated laws and poli­cies and just over­all red tape make things dif­fi­cult for Ja­maican en­trepreneurs. For ex­am­ple, in or­der for me to re­new my com­pany TCC, I have to visit Na­tional Hous­ing Trust, Na­tional In­sur­ance Scheme and HEART of­fices to get clear­ance let­ters, which I then take to the tax of­fice. Public­sec­tor in­ef­fi­ciency is sti­fling.

IIIIRe­duc­tion in Crime: This goes with­out say­ing, like ed­u­ca­tion, it can­not be over­stated and em­pha­sised enough.

II am a teenager, so a lot of peo­ple be­lieve that I do not know what is good for my coun­try. Young peo­ple are leav­ing Ja­maica in droves af­ter high school be­cause they do not be­lieve that they can have a pros­per­ous life here. I am not one of those peo­ple. I think if the Gov­ern­ment does the fol­low­ing five things, our sit­u­a­tion will im­prove.

We have a high num­ber of il­lit­er­ate or barely ed­u­cated peo­ple in our coun­try. This means that many do not even un­der­stand the ba­sics of eco­nom­ics, so they do not see the im­por­tance of things such as taxes or en­trepreneur­ship. It is im­por­tant to get all chil­dren in schools to learn, but it is im­por­tant to fo­cus on adults who can barely read. Cre­ate in­sti­tu­tions for adult ed­u­ca­tion. These should be ei­ther be free and staffed by vol­un­teers, or adults should be made to pay a min­i­mal fee, which should then be used to main­tain the fa­cil­ity.

Agri­cul­ture and min­ing are very im­por­tant ar­eas for growth. We study agri­cul­ture at my school but many high schools do not teach it. That is a big mis­take. We need to learn to grow our own food. Every school should ei­ther have a lit­tle gar­den or a small area for plant­ing.

Ex­port more con­sumer goods and im­port less. We ex­port at such a high rate in or­der to get cheaper food from abroad, that our econ­omy is left in sham­bles. We need to con­sume more of what we have here.

Not every child needs a de­gree. This is more dev­as­tat­ing to our econ­omy than peo­ple re­alise. En­cour­age more peo­ple to take the tech­ni­cal route. So many young peo­ple are left in debt be­cause of de­grees and lack of jobs. How can they con­trib­ute to the econ­omy when they can­not get jobs?

Re­duce the size of the gov­ern­ment, then use the ex­tra money to in­vest in all of the above.

IIIII

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