KINGSTON, Jamaica – Lamenting that young Jamaicans have never experienced economic growth in their lifetime, Michael Lee-Chin, Chairman of the Economic Growth Council (ECG), noted that the Council is focused on building the confidence of Jamaicans.
Speaking on Tuesday at the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference, the Jamaica-born Canadian billionaire, noted that very marginal growth for the past two decades has resulted in hopelessness among many Jamaicans.
“All they know is stagnation! Which means that you have young graduates with no opportunities to get a job and live an independent life. No growth means having no incentive to go to school; hence, there is an expectation of hopelessness,” he argued.
Lee-Chin who was one of the speakers at the Diaspora Growth Forum, organized by the Jamaica National Group, said low growth over the years have also resulted in the devaluation of the country’s assets; low confidence, corruption; poorly educated graduates and apathy, among other issues.
“Growth will reverse all of those conditions. So ladies and gentlemen it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we do everything possible and that we can to promote growth in Jamaica,” he said, emphasizing that “Growth in the economy would result in a revaluation of the nation’s assets; minimize crime and reduce the need for emigration of the country’s bright minds.”
“High growth will cause a reset of societal values. High growth will ensure our currency is stable. And high growth will cause us to have a confident society,” he underscored, pointing to the ECG’s mandate to grow the Jamaican economy by five per cent in four years.
However, he noted that the vital signs for economic growth were currently positive, pointing to the size of the Net International Reserves (NIR) and consumer confidence. He said that the country also has the confidence of the multilaterals.
The Bank of Jamaica reported NIR at more than US$2.6 billion in its July 7 release; while the Consumer Confidence Index stood at a high 137.1 basis points in the second quarter of 2017, although slightly below last quarter’s 139.3 and the all-time peak of 144.6 set in the first quarter of 2016.
To increase growth, Lee-Chin said the country will need to reduce “friction” and increase “horsepower.”
He said in order to create wealth the country must treat with three conditions: economic perception versus reality; inefficiencies; and the lack of equity capital, which it can capitalize on to create wealth.
“The conditions are set for wealth and its happening,” he affirmed. “If you do not get on the train now, it’s going to leave you… you can invest in your country, do well, do good and have lots of money.”
Earl Jarrett, Chief Executive Officer of The Jamaica National Group, chaired the Forum.