Business, Investment and Economics

My Two cents: What really is the purpose of the Economic Growth Council (EGC) of Jamaica?

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It doesn’t take an economics pundit to see through the fluff which surrounds the Economic Growth council of Jamaica. Its membership for one, right off the bat, tells you that this isn’t a unit seriously concerned about the ECONOMIC GROWTH of our country; but rather the LOOK of there being a special machinery in place for our economic growth. Let’s take an actual look at the council itself:

  1. Michael Lee-Chin, OJ Chairman, EGC
    Chairman, National Commercial Bank
  2. Ambassador Dr. Nigel Clarke Vice Chairman, EGC
    Dep. Chairman & CFO, Musson Group of Companies
  3. Hugh C. Hart, OJ Senior Partner, Hart Muirhead Fatta
  4. Patrick Hylton, CD Group Managing Director, NCB
  5. Noel Hylton, OJ, CD Noel Hylton and Associates
    Former Chairman, President and CEO, Port Authority of Jamaica
  6. Paula Kerr-Jarrett Director, Barnett Limited
  7. Pat Ramsay Cultural Consultant and Development Director
  8. Adam Stewart CEO, Sandals Resorts International
  9. Senator Kavan Gayle
    Representative from Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions
  10. Phillip Gore Owner & Executive Chairman of Gore Developments Ltd.

You’ll notice, for the most part, it’s nothing but a group of businessmen, lawyers and Investors. And if you’re wondering about Dr Nigel Clarke, he has a doctorate in mathematics (not economics). Another thing which stands out for me is the lack of youthful exuberance on this council. If it’s expected that the youth of Jamaica are to be the successors of any efforts coming out of this project, then why aren’t we represented? Where’s the young economics student to offer a different (and more contemporary) perspective to the discussions on growth? And if this Council is in place then what then was the purpose of creating a Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation? Aren’t we kind of repeating ourselves here? hmm

There are a few people in society today that I’m surprised weren’t tall enough to get on this ride either. Dr K’adamwe K’nife, lecturer of entrepreneurship at the UWI Mona and sustainable development specialist would make sense as an addition to me; Dr Peter Phillips MP, former Minister of Finance and Planning (who also holds a PhD in International Political Economy and Development Studies I might add), and the only man who could offer insight on our growth over the last 4-5 years; Dennis Chung, CEO of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica to guide offer insight on the structuring of that public/private partnership; Professor Trevor Munroe, Executive Director of the National Integrity Action (NIA) to advise the proper preventative measures for corruption control in the grand scheme of growth; and the list goes on.

What also concerns me is the overarching mission of this council with their “five in four plan” i.e 5% growth over the next 4 years. Is this even possible? Are they saying 5% cumulative growth by the year 2020, or in the year 2020 they expect to achieve growth of 5% after any given quarter? Below is a graph showing Jamaica’s economic growth trajectory over the last 4 years:

growth

As you can see for yourself, According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica on a quarter-on-quarter basis, the GDP expanded 1.6 percent. GDP Annual Growth Rate in Jamaica averaged 0.58 percent from 2003 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 4.30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006 and a record low of -4.50 percent in the second quarter of 2009. So if you really think about it, if they can replicate what was done between 2003 and 2016 and add 0.30%, 5% “growth” is possible. But will this really translate to socio-economic development? Rather, is this council AT ALL concerned with the socio-economic development of Jamaica or just boosting the numbers on paper? Because they are basically promising another 4 years just like the last 4 years (only a little bit better to account for the extra 0.30%). Is that what the Jamaican people would consider as growth?

A more believable approach to this would have been to extend the trajectory to about 15-20 years with a memorandum of understanding between the two political parties and civil society groups that just like the vision 2030 development agenda, this growth agenda would remain untouched. Notice also, that the current administration’s campaign for government was hinged on the promise of economic prosperity (growth) for Jamaica if elected. Also notice, that this 5 in 4 plan will conveniently conclude just in time for election season again? *hint*hint*

Finally take a look at the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) and the newly convened Economic Growth Council (EGC). Notice any similarities? Why did they recreate the wheel that was the EPOC instead of adopt and reform it? Why is the chair of the EPOC, Mr Richard Byles, not even an honorary member of the EGC? *sips tea*

I want to end my rant with a word of advice to the powers that be reading this and may be feeling uneasy with the revelations: get over yourselves. The growth and development of Jamaica Land we love should not be a tactic to retain power and/or boost the aesthetics of the party which forms government; but rather a social partnership between ALL stakeholders of Jamaica (Rich, Poor and Young ) committed to the long term agenda for economic growth and prosperity. I would also implore the EGC going forward, to dialogue with the youth of our country and get them directly involved in this mission for economic growth. After all, whatever progress or decline that comes from this initiative will be OUR responsibility as youth to carry on. So it makes sense to give us a seat at the table.

 

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Politics, Leadership and Governance

The PNP of today – the People’s National Poppy-show

Image result for Portia Simpson Miller and her executive
The People’s National Party of today, has become the People’s National Poppy-show; and everybody from green to orange to neutral can see it for themselves. Just a small disclaimer for your preconceived notions, I am not a die-hard Labourite or a newly recruited member of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) who is attacking the People’s National Party (PNP) for political points. No. I’m just a young person, who is concerned about what once was the leadership of our country. Now, from readings on our Jamaican political history, it was quite evident that this was once a movement meant for the upliftment and progression of Jamaica land we love; putting all petty things aside to achieve this overarching mission. But the recent happenings over the last two years have left me in a state of bewilderment; and it leads me to wonder if these people really know what they are doing. The JLP  being the underdogs for the last 2 decades have actually proved themselves over the last 7 months, and they must be credited for their style of politicking.
The current leadership of the PNP is the worst I have seen in years, and there is evidence to support my harsh words. Madam Portia Simpson Miller (PSM) and her senior counterparts have significantly  dissolved the trust and respect comrades and Jamaicans alike once had for the party, with effortless grace and style. Values of integrity, accountability, transparency, unity and decency have been demoted to mere talking points to get the crowd going at a political rally; but we seldom see these values being put into practice.
As a young and neutral enthusiast of Jamaican politics I have to question Madam PSM’s integrity when I see last year during the pre-election period, her Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson and fellow comrade almost run the Health Ministry into the ground and escape any sort of retribution fitting for  failed ministers. In fact, because they are such good comrades she gave the boss another Ministry to do a wonderful job with; presuming the Jamaican people would return them to government. Her arrogance as well during the political race, and the immaturity and mediocre political strategies employed by her team leads me to wonder again if this is a group of people who know what they are doing! All predictions from political pundits suggested beyond reasonable doubt that PNP had that election in the bag, but it was the wit and decisiveness of the JLP that gave them the extra inches in the race to clinch it.
Now, fast forward a few months post-election, and they seemed to be humbled and in a state of reflection and planning. But no one could avoid the bangarang caused by the former MP and State Minister of Entertainment and Tourism the Honorable Damion Crawford and two seniors in the party, General Secretary Paul Burke and especially Senator Dr. Angela Brown-Burke. What a hot mess! Husband and wife attacking the adopted son of the PNP, who was and still is arguably one of Jamaica’s most beloved young politicians. It was distasteful and eye-opening to see the bitterness and tension that existed between the young and old of the party. That is probably when the Poppyshow begun, and I think we’re in for a few many more episodes because this story line doesn’t seem to be climaxing any time soon.
And then there is now, this campaign finance scandal that the PNP seniors are actually trying to justify. It is corruption, CO-RRUP-TION; and I think they are still so caught up in their arrogance that they can’t seem to realize their wrongs. Norman Horne, the former PNP Treasurer, is a hero of democracy for releasing those reports, because wrong is wrong and right is right; despite the color it is dipped in. This is why our governance is so slow and retrogressive compared to other nations with even limited resources than us. This thinking that there is a place for corruption and dictator- style politics is how you erode a democracy, not preserve it. And the JLP is not innocent of corruption either; in fact they are probably worse.
So, here’s my advice to the PNP: fix  your leadership if you want to move forward. Madam Portia Simpson Miller has been an incredible stateswoman and her contribution to Jamaica’s politics and development is unprecedented, and we appreciate her for that. But the fact is, her time has passed. The “Mama P” superwoman appeal she once had with the electorate has now been replaced by an old, stubborn grandma afraid to pass on the baton to the next generation. Dr Karl Blythe needs to have several seats also, because by no means am I implying he is the alternative. Youth, in the party like Lisa Hanna, Julian Robinson, Raymond Pryce, Damion Crawford and Dayton Campbell to name a few are the fixers the party needs and I can almost guarantee that if they are given a chance to make magic happen, it will. I’m not suggesting however that all the seniors be packed into a coaster bus and sent to retirement, but there needs to be a more equal blend between the young and the old. With that sort of structure, it invites new ideas and perspectives to contend the traditional ones and this is how they will create the contemporary solutions their party needs. Lastly, the bangarang and passa passa between old and new generations needs to end; indefinitely. Michael Manley must be begging Jesus to send him back after seeing the Poppyshow his PNP has turned into. Come on comrades, you all know and can do better than this.
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