Growth agenda achiev­able

... Even though stymied by on­go­ing de­cline in some sec­tors

Jamaica Gleaner - - GROWTH & JOBS - Jodi-Ann Gilpin Gleaner Writer jodi-ann.gilpin@glean­erjm.com

JA­MAICA’S GROWTH agenda is be­ing stymied by the on­go­ing stark de­cline in key ar­eas such as man­u­fac­tur­ing, ser­vice and en­ergy sec­tors, a sit­u­a­tion which will re­quire a struc­tured, national col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort to build on the economic gains achieved, ac­cord­ing to one of the coun­try’s econ­o­mists.

But the man mak­ing those ob­ser­va­tions, Dr Charles Dou­glas, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer at the Ja­maica Pro­duc­tiv­ity Cen­tre, has con­fi­dence that Ja­maica can make it hap­pen. “The fact that I am sit­ting here in this job means that I am hope­ful. If I wasn’t hope­ful, I wouldn’t be sit­ting here,” he told The Gleaner in an in­ter­view.

The Ja­maica Pro­duc­tiv­ity Cen­tre is a tri­par­tite or­gan­i­sa­tion com­pris­ing the Gov­ern­ment of Ja­maica – through the Min­istry of Labour and So­cial Se­cu­rity, the Ja­maica Em­ploy­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion and the Ja­maica Con­fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions.

Dou­glas be­lieves the fail­ure of lo­cal busi­nesses to in­vest in new and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies over the years has had a ma­jor neg­a­tive impact on their bot­tom lines as borne out by a labour pro­duc­tiv­ity study, con­ducted by the or­gan­i­sa­tion, span­ning the pe­riod 2001-2015. It shows that while pro­duc­tiv­ity rates were up for con­struc­tion (0.7 per cent); ho­tels and restau­rant (0.6 per cent); agri­cul­ture, forestry and fish­ing (0.5 per cent); and with trans­port, stor­age and com­mu­ni­ca­tion record­ing a 0.4 per cent uptick, this im­prove­ment was not matched by other key sec­tors.

Man­u­fac­tur­ing recorded a -0.7 de­cline, with finance and in­sur­ance ser­vices fall­ing by -1.3 per cent; elec­tric­ity, gas and wa­ter dip­ping by -1.4 per cent; the whole­sale and re­tail trade show­ing a -1.5 fall­out; and gov­ern­ment ser­vices fall­ing by -1.7 per cent.

The econ­o­mist of­fered this in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the re­al­ity be­hind those num­bers.

“Be­tween 2001 and 2015, the growth rate of labour pro­duc­tiv­ity was -0.7 per cent. So labour pro­duc­tiv­ity has been de­clin­ing at an annual av­er­age rate at 0.7 per cent, and that’s not good,” he said.

The cu­mu­la­tive neg­a­tive per­for­mance of man­u­fac­tur­ing, finance and in­sur­ance ser­vices, elec­tric­ity, gas, whole­sale and re­tail trade, min­ing and quar­ry­ing, real es­tate and busi­ness ser­vices must be ad­dressed in or­der to achieve sus­tained growth, ac­cord­ing to Dou­glas.

“The over­all pic­ture is that some in­dus­tries are show­ing pos­i­tive growth, al­though small, and some neg­a­tive. Our job is re­ally to do what it takes to re­verse those neg­a­tive pro­duc­tiv­ity num­bers,” he said.

“There are some el­e­ments or some busi­nesses in the so­ci­ety, even pub­lic and pri­vate busi­nesses, that are pro­duc­tive. How­ever, there are com­pa­nies that are re­ally lag­ging; they have not done any­thing dif­fer­ent from what was be­ing done prob­a­bly 100 years ago. They have not em­braced tech­nol­ogy, they have not em­braced in­no­va­tion, and even if they have em­braced ICT (in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy) they have not used it pro­duc­tively to mar­ket their busi­ness or to im­prove the over­all ef­fi­ciency of the busi­ness.”

‘FIVE IN FOUR’ INI­TIA­TIVE

De­spite this, Dou­glas is of the view that the Gov­ern­ment’s ‘five in four’ ini­tia­tive, which projects five per cent growth in four years, can be achieved if the right poli­cies and method­olo­gies are im­ple­mented.

“I think it’s a tar­get that is achiev­able. It’s achiev­able, but we have to do some spe­cific things,” he said.

“We have to look at what are our growth ar­eas. For ex­am­ple, agri­cul­ture has been show­ing pos­i­tive growth, but we have to set spe­cific tar­gets to make sure that we get the nec­es­sary in­vest­ments, growth and employment, all of which will result in in­creased stan­dards of liv­ing.”

He added, “At the end of the day, all of what we are do­ing was de­signed to im­prove stan­dards of liv­ing. ‘Five in four’ is re­ally a mod­est tar­get, it’s not that am­bi­tious. A lot of emerg­ing mar­ket economies have been grow­ing at seven, eight, nine and 10 per cent per an­num and we have been grow­ing at less than one per cent. It means that we have not been do­ing some­thing right. I am hop­ing that with the ‘five in four’, we can tar­get the things which we have not been do­ing right and do them right.”

DOU­GLAS

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