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Since taking office in March of 2016, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has established an Economic Growth Council, headed by investor and philanthropist Michael Lee Chin, chairman of the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica (NCB), to advise the government on the best economic policies with a goal of reaching 5% annual GDP growth by 2020.With a population of 2.8 million — roughly equivalent to that of Chicago — Jamaica has the largest workforce in the English-speaking Caribbean.“Our request to move to a precautionary arrangement is a sign of strength and reflects the policy credibility and strong macroeconomic management of the Jamaican government,” Mr. Since 2009, Jamaica’s credit rating has improved from CCC to B (S&P and Fitch), and from Caa1 to B3 (Moody’s), while Bloomberg ranked Jamaica’s stock exchange as the best performing in the world.“I’m really impressed with what they’ve done to attract capital to the market,” Carl Bennett, a vice president of investor relations at Bank of New York Mellon, told Bloomberg.But after decades of slow and sometimes negative growth, the country is taking a strategic turn, with plans to leverage its countless other strengths — including its key geographic location and the largest English-speaking workforce in the Caribbean — to transform, diversify and strengthen its economy.Located at the center of the Caribbean, right outside the Panama Canal, Jamaica is at the crossroads of North-South and East-West shipping lanes and plans to join Singapore, Dubai and Rotterdam as the fourth node in global logistics.With many areas of rich, untapped potential, Jamaica does not come without its challenges.The most prominent is its high crime rate and insecurity — Kingston is said to be among the most dangerous capitals in the world.
Tackling bureaucratic inefficiency, the EGC recommends streamlining processes for small businesses employing fewer than 10 people, faster application and permitting approvals, improving courts’ efficiency in areas such as contract enforcement, extending the hours to process more matters, and simplifying import-export procedures.
Jamaican leaders readily acknowledge the country’s growth has been less than stellar since its independence.
“Jamaica is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and human potential but somehow, these have not been converted to sustainable economic growth for the majority of our independent experience,” says Economic Growth Council (EGC) Chairman Michael Lee Chin.
To keep assets from remaining dormant, which generates only small returns and does not contribute to jobs or employment, the EGC advises implementing mechanisms that promote greater utilization of these assets to induce economic growth.
This would include promoting privatization, public-private partnerships, and similar transactions.
Tackling this issue is therefore a crucial component of the country’s ongoing socioeconomic transformation.