Big growth for Ja

Econ­omy sees strong­est per­for­mance over sin­gle quar­ter in 14 years

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter

JA­MAICA’S ECO­NOMIC growth pro­jec­tions for the fis­cal year stand to be re­vised up­wards over the strong­est growth in a sin­gle quar­ter in 14 years.

Stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing the Pri­vate Sec­tor Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Ja­maica (PSOJ), say they are not sur­prised and fore­cast that the growth rate should con­tinue.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Aud­ley Shaw, to the de­light of gov­ern­ment mem­bers, yes­ter­day told the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives that the econ­omy over the July to Septem­ber quar­ter grew by 2.3 per cent, the high­est sin­gle quar­ter growth since 2002.

“We are well on our way to five in four,” he said, ref­er­enc­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s aim to get five per cent gross do­mes­tic growth by the 2020-2021 fis­cal year.

The Plan­ning In­sti­tute of Ja­maica (PIOJ) had re­ported 1.1 per cent growth for the April to June quar­ter. The in­sti­tute, which has pro­jected real GDP growth for this fis­cal year of be­tween one and two per cent, is ex­pected to present more de­tailed analy­ses later this month.

Den­nis Chung, PSOJ chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, said Shaw’s dis­clo­sure was not un­ex­pected, sug­gest­ing that stronger fo­cus on crime and pub­lic-sec­tor re­form could trig­ger a big­ger up­swing in up­com­ing quar­ters.

“I’m not sur­prised, for two rea­sons. The year be­fore, we had a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem be­cause of the whole drought sit­u­a­tion, but also we’ve been see­ing a lot more peo­ple go­ing into agri­cul­ture, even on large scale, and

even at the mi­cro, small and medium-sized en­ter­prises. The PSOJ has been say­ing [since] two years ago that we ex­pected that the econ­omy was go­ing to im­prove. I think it’s go­ing to con­tinue based on the trend we have.”

Shaw said much of the growth last quar­ter came from the agri­cul­ture sec­tor, which grew by 28.8 per cent, twice the fig­ure recorded for April to June.

Nor­man Grant, pres­i­dent of the Ja­maica Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety, said the lat­est fig­ures show how im­por­tant farm­ers are to the econ­omy and give an in­di­ca­tion of the pos­si­bil­i­ties if roads and ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems are up­graded.

“Over the past two years, we have been hav­ing very bad drought. This year, the weather has been good, and it is re­mark­able in terms of the per­for­mance of the agri­cul­ture sec­tor,” he said.

Pres­i­dent of the Mi­cro, Small and Medi­um­Sized En­ter­prises Al­liance, Dono­van Wig­nal, said the growth fig­ures show why it was im­por­tant to con­tinue with the eco­nomic re­form pro­gramme. “The fun­da­men­tals to get this sort of growth would have been work in progress that this ad­min­is­tra­tion has so wisely con­tin­ued.”

“It’s good news for the coun­try. It will do a lot to bol­ster in­vestor con­fi­dence and con­sumer con­fi­dence. They are pay­ing sig­nif­i­cant at­ten­tion,” he added.

Mean­while, Shaw yes­ter­day an­nounced that a group of stake­hold­ers has been set up to work with the Bank of Ja­maica (BOJ) to ad­dress is­sues with the slid­ing dol­lar. That work­ing group is to have its first meet­ing with the BOJ on Fri­day.

Point­ing to im­prove­ments in the econ­omy, the more than US$3 bil­lion in for­eign-ex­change re­serves, and the as­sur­ance of con­tin­ued In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund sup­port, Shaw said he couldn’t un­der­stand the ba­sis for the de­pre­ci­a­tion.

“There is no ob­jec­tive ba­sis ex­cept for care­less­ness, greed and spec­u­la­tion that can cause our ex­change rate to con­tinue to de­value,” he ar­gued.

“We, as a coun­try, can come to­gether around this and keep our ex­change rate sta­ble. We need to do it for our cit­i­zens, our fam­i­lies [and] our school­child­ren.”

Op­po­si­tion Se­na­tor Lam­bert Brown and Kingston Cen­tral Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Ron­ald Th­waites have emerged re­cently as voices de­mand­ing ac­tion from the au­thor­i­ties on stem­ming the slide in the lo­cal cur­rency, which has lost more than six per cent of its value since April, de­spite re­peated BOJ in­ter­ven­tions.

“I don’t want the min­is­ter of fi­nance to be ac­cused of stay­ing away from what is very, very im­por­tant for this coun­try,” he said.

The lo­cal cur­rency was at $129.05 to US$1 at the end of trad­ing Tues­day.

CHUNG

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