The dawn­ing of new be­gin­nings

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Ron­ald Ma­son Ma­son is an at­tor­ney-at­law and a Supreme Court me­di­a­tor. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­ and na­tion­

SINCE JA­MAICA be­came in­de­pen­dent in Au­gust 1962, we have been search­ing for eco­nomic growth. There have been pe­ri­ods where growth has led to im­prove­ment in gross do­mes­tic prod­uct in the three to five per cent range, but these pe­ri­ods have been sig­nif­i­cant for their short du­ra­tion.

In the mean­time, nor­mal GDP has been av­er­ag­ing one per cent per an­num. With a coun­try that has be­low­stan­dard in­fra­struc­ture, lim­ited ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ments and nar­row de­vel­oped en­tre­pre­neur­ial drive, the re­sults of this eco­nomic malaise have been a stag­na­tion of the Ja­maican peo­ple and the coun­try while amass­ing huge debt.

Now, there are signs that could, in fact, be chang­ing the course of our eco­nomic for­tunes. The pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion en­gaged the IMF and per­formed very cred­itably in tack­ling the struc­tural changes for the econ­omy. Debt to gross do­mes­tic prod­uct moved from 146 per cent down to 125 per cent.

The peo­ple made huge sac­ri­fices and the re­sults are now ev­i­dent. The cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion must be com­mended for con­tin­u­ing the ef­forts and seek­ing to bol­ster gov­er­nance by agree­ing to a new IMF agree­ment that will come into ef­fect April 2017.

I have had rea­son to en­gage with the per­son most iden­ti­fied with the driv­ing of the new eco­nomic be­gin­nings. Dr Nigel Clarke first came to my at­ten­tion early Fe­bru­ary 2014 while he was serv­ing in the Ja­maican Se­nate re­gard­ing a bill ti­tled ‘The Ur­ban Re­newal Tax Re­lief from In­come Tax, Stamp Duty and Trans­fer Tax for Developments in ar­eas of Blight and Ur­ban De­cay’.


Se­na­tors were en­gag­ing in par­ti­san­ship and Dr Clarke, along with six oth­ers, saw to the pas­sage of the legislation con­trary to his JLP col­leagues. This act of in­de­pen­dence caused me to pay at­ten­tion to him. Now, he is the face of the Eco­nomic Growth Coun­cil, and an hour­long in­ter­ac­tion I had with him has left me op­ti­mistic.

He has a vi­sion and strat­egy to im­ple­ment that vi­sion. I am of the opin­ion that since the ma­jor­ity of Ja­maica’s pop­u­la­tion has never been ex­posed to the ben­e­fits of sus­tained GDP growth of five per cent per an­num, the econ­omy and the peo­ple now have what to look for.

Search­ing for and achiev­ing five per cent growth re­quires the best ef­forts and ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of us all. Dr Clarke, along with the team, un­der­stands that the in­flu­enc­ing fac­tors must be at­tended to. Crime re­duc­tion, ed­u­ca­tional im­prove­ment, and pro­duc­tiv­ity growth are very nec­es­sary, and re­quire all of us to pull in the same di­rec­tion, but the ben­e­fits in job growth, more eq­ui­table tax­a­tion, re­duc­tion in poverty, and wealth cre­ation are all by-prod­ucts of this process.

Dr Clarke and his team have made de­liv­er­ables part of the mea­sur­ing cri­te­ria for the new IMF agree­ment. The fact that one now knows who is to be held ac­count­able and that quar­terly re­ports will be made to the coun­try, and that we the cit­i­zens have our de­fined roles in the process, strikes me as be­ing much more de­sir­able than the pre­vi­ous hope and prayer that were ap­plied to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the past.

The dis­ci­pline to work to­wards tar­gets, the fact that the new pro­posed IMF agree­ment has re­serves of hard cur­rency to deal with un­con­trol­lable eco­nomic shocks, and the plans made with a dom­i­nant sense of in­ter­de­pen­dence all sup­port the dawn­ing of new be­gin­nings.

The dif­fer­ence in this ap­proach is the fix­ity of pur­pose and the will­ing­ness to make the ad­just­ments while mov­ing to­wards the de­sired goals and the im­por­tance of buy-in from busi­ness lob­by­ists like the Ja­maica Man­u­fac­tur­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, the Pri­vate Sec­tor Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Ja­maica, the Real­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, et al. The con­flu­ence of for­tunes is most heart­en­ing.


I note with pride the re­ac­tion of Dr Peter Phillips to these developments. It mat­ters not whether the Ja­maica Labour Party or the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party achieve the suc­cess, but if they, and us, as cit­i­zens, work to at­tain these tar­gets, there is enough praise, plau­dits and ac­com­plish­ments for all to share.

One of the un­der­pin­nings of wealth cre­ation in our so­ci­ety is the right to own and trade in per­sonal property, in­clud­ing real es­tate. The Gov­ern­ment, sep­a­rate and apart from the politi­cians, has the obli­ga­tion to pro­tect the right to pri­vate own­er­ship. Own­er­ship is wrapped up in the prin­ci­ple of en­dow­ment with a ti­tle. When the politi­cian be­gins to in­ter­vene in cit­i­zens’ right to own, de­velop or use property as they see fit, it up­sets the bal­ance between the State and the gov­erned.

It is nec­es­sary to watch care­fully the pro­posed in­ter­ven­tion by politi­cians in the use of pri­vate as­sets by the own­ers of land on Red Hills Road in St An­drew. State­ments at­trib­uted to politi­cians about the use of the courts need to be care­fully mon­i­tored. One ac­knowl­edges that the State has an in­ter­est in the com­mon wel­fare of its cit­i­zens. How­ever, we can­not be seen as us­ing the State to use its awe­some power to in­ter­vene in pri­vate property rights and own­er­ship.

We are at the be­gin­ning of the dawn­ing of new eco­nomic ex­pec­ta­tions. Think of the in­vestors.


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