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Stabroek News

Building a growth momentum
published: Sunday | April 9, 2006

Byron Buckley, News Editor


Jamaica's world champion Asafa Powell (rear) and Sheri-Anne Brooks celebrate together with the national flag after they both won gold in their respective 100m finals at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, on March 20. Sports can be used as a vehicle for achieving national unity.- REUTERS

There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune

­ Julius Caesar

William Shakespeare

THERE HAS been a confluence of positive social and economic factors coinciding with the ascension of Portia Simpson Miller to the position of prime minister.

Failure on her part to capitalise on the opportunity to sustain a growth momentum could condemn the island-nation to the continuation of nearly two decades of meagre economic performance.

Conversely, if she captains Team Jamaica well, she could appear on the medal stand to receive the victor's crown and the acclaim of spectators.

ATHLETIC PROWESS

Sports enthusiast that she is, Prime Minister Simpson Miller well understands the imperatives of high performance as well as the contagious effects of winning.

Indeed, the first factor on which she should capitalise is Jamaica's prowess in athletics as recently demonstrated by the country's haul of 22 medals, including ten gold, in the recent Commonwealth Games held in Australia.

It has been established that sport (note the euphoria that accompanied the Reggae Boyz Road to France campaign) unifies and galvanises the nation.

The obvious move, therefore, is for the new prime minister and her administration, with the support of the private sector, to promote sports throughout the nook and cranny of the island.

In this regard, agencies such as Insports, the Social Develop-ment Commission, the Sports Development Foundation and the CHASE Fund must take a lead role. This is something to which Prime Minister Simpson Miller, with sports included in her portfolio responsibilities, can give fillip.

DEVELOP A VISION

In addition to using sports as a vehicle for achieving unity, the Simpson Miller administration needs to develop a vision and mission statement based on the culture of 'world champions' and attempt to infuse this in every facet of the society.

While Dr. Omar Davies failed to have his 'world-class' campaign platform accepted by the majority of delegates in his bid for president of the People's National Party (PNP), it is worth being adopted by Simpson Miller.

If we are world champions in sports, we can be world champions in performance in business, education, service industries and cultural industries.

The challenge is how to model the winning ways of our athletes to the benefit of people in other endeavours. Over to business gurus such as Aubyn Hill, who sits appropriately at the head of the National Investment Bank of Jamaica. JAMPRO, too, has a role to play here.

PERFORMING ARTS

The second factor on which Prime Minister Simpson Miller can build a growth momentum is the country's achievements in the performing arts. Damian Marley's winning of a Grammy in the reggae category is just one demonstration of the potential of Jamaica’s cultural industries.

Marley is, of course, walking in the footsteps of his father Bob Marley, who brought indigenous Jamaican music to international heights.

But there are hundreds of performing artistes – singers, musicians, poets, dancers, models and actors who, if supported, could attain international recognition, and earn a decent living. There is also the area of fine arts including fashion designers, sculptors and painters.

These need to be classified as cultural industries and given all the possible support from state and private sector institutions.

Simpson Miller must be commended for placing both culture and entertainment, along with tourism, under one minister, Aloun Assamba.

Hopefully, this organisational rearrangement will address the many problems that have been haunting the entertainment sector. This is a multibillion dollar industry that can provide the country with well-needed foreign exchange.

There is the scope for synergy between the Tourism, Entertain-ment and Culture ministry and the Colin Campbell-led Information and Development Ministry.

This is in regard to the production of videos and television programming, which target local and overseas markets.

INFRASTRUCTURAL PROJECTS

The raft of infrastructural projects now in progress or in the the pipeline is a third advantage on which the new prime minister can capitalise. Highway 2000, the Northcoast Highway, bauxite expansion, port expansion and hotel construction projects all augur well for employment.

In addition, construction residential and commercial – in the private sector is robust.

These infrastructural projects, coupled with the favourable outlook for economic growth worldwide and developing countries in particular, provide Jamaica with the best opportunity for growth that it has experienced over the last 20 years.

KNOWLEDGE AND FINANCIAL RESOURCES

A fourth factor in favour of economic growth is the reservoir of knowledge and financial resources that reside in the Jamaican Diaspora.

Representatives were in the island recently to attend Simpson Miller's inauguration ceremony, and there has been much enthusiasm among the Jamaican migrant community abroad in reaction to her appointment as prime minister.

As pointed out by university lecturer John Rapley in The Gleaner of April 6 ... There are many Jamaicans, of all ages, working in high positions at the world's major international bodies. What unites them is a conviction that Jamaica can do better, and a determination to play their part.

Playing their part is not confined to the US$2 billion or so of remittances that Jamaicans residing abroad send home to their families – money which seeps into the local economy in the form of housing construction, education of children and general consumption.

But the diaspora wants to do more, and Prime Minister Simpson Miller must sustain the momentum started under her successor and stewarded by Junior Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Delano Franklin.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

The final factor on which the prime minister could capitalise is the recent surge in consumer and business confidence in the future, as captured by a survey conducted under the auspices of the Conference Board, an arm of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce.

According to the survey, the seasonally adjusted Index of Consumer Confidence recorded 124.2 for the first quarter (January to March 6) of this year, up from 96.3 in the prior quarter and significantly above the 109.2 recorded a year ago.

The survey finding has possibly captured the feeling of hope that has been hanging in the air during the run-up to the PNP presidential election campaign and since the declaration of Simpson Miller’s victory.

The survey noted: When asked about future prospects for the economy, consumers held the most favourable economic outlook recorded in the five years that these surveys have been conducted.

The report continued: The outlook for future job prospects also improved, with one-in-four Jamaicans in the first quarter survey that expected more plentiful jobs during the year ahead.

But herein lies Simpson Miller's dilemma: unrealistic expectations. Is she able to produce real and sustainable jobs fast enough before people's patience wears thin?

Part of this positive consumer confidence is likely as a consequence of pent-up demand for wages and benefits following the wage restraint pact signed by government and trade unions representing public sector workers.

As evidenced by the spate of labour unrest that greeted this year, the management of consumer demand requires great skill.

Workers must be made to understand that high wage increases without production to back it up, could result in high inflation and the cycle continues.

So, I am back to where I started: the development of an inclusive vision on achieving world-class performance and output in all aspects of Jamaican life.

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