Economic growth, job creation and wealth distribution for Jamaica
The late Dr Miles Monroe said, “One of the richest places in the world is the graveyard. Because so many people are buried there with unused talents.”
This statement can also be applied to Jamaica. There are so many Jamaicans, both young and old, who have died with unused talent, and so many more who are alive and desperately wanting the opportunity to use their talents to better themselves, their communities, this nation, and the world.
I have been watching on television and reading the newspaper about your Economic Growth Council (EGC) and the proposed “5 in 4” mission, and I pray for its success.
Here are some of my suggestions that I believe can also help Jamaica’s economic growth, job creation and wealth distribution.
I know that money is not an inexhaustible resource for any Government, so what one possesses has to be managed and invested wisely to be of benefit to their country and economy.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, please invest more in the Jamaicans that are in the lower classes of society. Take the risk and make more readily and easily available for them the financial resources that they need to get their business ideas into reality.
China, Singapore, South Korea, and Trinidad, to name a few countries, owe their success to wise government, an educated and skilled labour force, maximum use of available resources, and disciplined people. Jamaica, too, has natural resources and talented people who are ingenious and who can produce quality products for the world to consume. We too can find our niches and shine just as brightly on the world stage. Both the Government and we the people of this nation, working in partnership, can make this nation famous not only for athletics and music, but also for art, industry, technology, commerce, and finance.
Prime Minister, in order to turn the Jamaican economy around, raise the social standards of the people, and seriously bring down unemployment and crime in this nation, you will need the help of not only the rich and intellectually elite of this nation, but also of other Jamaicans who do not fall in those mentioned categories to help in your economic growth plans and to uplift this nation.
Jamaica is losing out big time because of the prejudice of education and qualifications. Author Mark Twain said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” A sentiment I agree with. I do believe in higher education, as I am qualified in business economics and commerce, management and administration, health and social care. My mother always told me, they can take everything from you, but they can’t take your education. But life also is a brilliant teacher, and real entrepreneurs, like many of us Jamaicans, are well schooled in this area. There are many uneducated but literate Jamaicans who are business savvy that are ready to be given the opportunity to invest in their visions and produce goods for this nation and the world.
One of my reasons for requesting the Government’s help for these individuals is because it is severely difficult for a Jamaican to open a bank account, much more acquire a loan to start a new enterprise or develop an existing business. It is so difficult to even get a “simple job” here in Jamaica because employers are asking for high levels of qualification and years of experience for even the most basic “common sense” jobs. So it is extremely difficult for the young people with ideas to raise the finances needed to start a business in Jamaica and help to make Jamaica prosperous.
I bear no grudges or animosity towards any immigrants doing business in Jamaica; they are welcome here. Although many of these immigrants/business people are making money legally, they are sending it abroad, which is not good for Jamaica’s economy. These people have seen the opportunity for prospering in business here in Jamaica and have the financing to invest and exploit these opportunities. But these wholesales, supermarkets and shops which are opened are selling mostly foreign goods (imported products) to the Jamaican public because we do not have our people producing new and varied Jamaican products.
We are not producers because many Jamaicans with brilliant ideas and skills lack the opportunity to bring their skills and ideas to reality because of lack of financing, as well as they are unable to exploit whatever opportunities they may see. The Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation should set up a programme through which it invests in several hundred individuals each year with ideas that would create business and new industries. I propose that you set up a branch in the ministry with a budget of, say, $1 billion a year to assist Jamaicans with promising ideas to start businesses and aid in management for a year. These businesses, once established, will employ Jamaicans and target, hopefully, not only the local but also the international markets using mostly, if possible, local products.
In the same way the Government can back financially a big-risk corporation to set up or improve their businesses to benefit the country, so too people with skills, talents and good ideas need financing so that their endeavours could benefit Jamaicans by creating jobs, products and services for domestic and international markets.
NEW REVENUE STREAMS
In 2011, the majority of the people in the country, when given the choice of the present governing political party and prime minister, voted in favour of Portia Simpson Miller and her team to lead. Now, in 2016, voters have handed leadership to the Jamaica Labour Party, with Andrew Holness at the helm. This nation’s majority gave Holness the opportunity to lead, and now his ideas to make this nation prosperous can see the light of day, and with the grace of God they will come to fruition. The people in this nation need the financing to turn their talents into business success that will help to create good employment for Jamaicans and boost this economy.
Jamaica and the Government can no longer rely on remittances from abroad for much longer as many governments of developed nations are seeking to make policy decisions that will certainly curtail this practice. So it is time to innovate and create new avenues from which the country may earn and maintain itself before it is too late.
Among the areas to be examined is the fact that Jamaica is foolishly importing products like garlic, tomatoes, onions, peas, potatoes, cabbage, peppers, ginger, bananas, and other food crops which could be easily grown here to more than adequately supply our local market. We need to stop talking about cutlass agriculture and farming and start sensibly investing in the agricultural sector to achieve the maximum levels of production. The overcrowded but rich nation of Singapore is so small it has to reclaim land out of the sea. We have ample land to produce more than enough nourishing food for this nation, so we should use it to do so and stop this vast importation of food, supporting other nations’ economy and farmers.
Like the coffee industry, they support their growers with ready buyers, and so too should our Government be ready buyers or aid in the distribution of the yam, banana, plantain, and other farm produce grown by the farmers in this country. This would cut down on the need for imports, saving money for Jamaica and encouraging farmers to grow more. The earning potential would entice young people to start farming. Many farmers do not push to produce more food for there is no buyer, and young people do not want to get into farming because there is no money.
Another way the Government could help the farmers is to create co-operatives where they could sell their produce and also create food processing plants where foods are frozen, prepared for canning, or used in the manufacturing process. In doing so, the Government would be helping the farmers and making local produce more readily available for Jamaicans to eat what we grow as we would be growing what we eat.
There is no sense in rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. Concerning the sugar industry, it is best to change crops and create new needed products. The sugar industry here is suffering because of global competition, so why not use some of the land to produce other crops, for example corn, wheat, soy, figs. Money is wasted in continuously bailing out the producers of sugar. Instead of more alcohol products, the sugar industry could invest in creating a breakfast cereal or energy and protein bars with locally grown agricultural products, and these would be internationally sought after. That is how I see agriculture, a growing industry that is boosted by commerce. All this would be the result of working together for the benefit of Jamaica.
CHANGE THE THINKING
I have noticed that the Jamaican Government expects the people to behave in a certain way, yet the Government does not provide better options. For example, the Government fights against unlicensed taxis or “robot” taxis, yet it does not provide safe, adequate and efficient public transport for people to travel to and from work and for children to travel to and from school.
The Government is complaining about dangerous and illegal disposal of garbage, whether by dumping waste in gullies or burning, but then it fails to provide the efficient garbage collection service which is required.
And the Government seems to have forgotten that one man’s waste is another’s raw material. The Government needs to commit to building about three waste-recycling plants around the country to recycle plastics, metal, glass and paper. Instead of aiming to increase the number of garbage collection trucks and personnel, encourage Jamaicans to separate their waste into viable categories for recycling. When we recycle paper, metal, plastic and glass we will not only be creating jobs, we will be creating resources which can be sold to local industries and also sold internationally, cutting down imports, and keeping our environment (beaches, seas, land, drains, gullies) free of dangerous garbage. Plastics could be recycled to make PVC pipes, water boots, water drums, etc. Glass may be recycled to make bottles, cups, vases, plates, glass doors and windows, etc. Paper recycling can produce wall papers, cardboard boxes, paper for printing paper and making books, amongst other things.
Thinking further, we could combine plastics and metal production with software and hardware engineering specialists, and Jamaica could start the production of mobile phones, tablets, laptops, computers, and televisions. All these could supply industries locally and abroad.
I am sure also that recycling will have a drastic impact on the mosquito population and boost the health of the people, saving lives and medical expenses and loss of labour and man-hours due to sickness.
Let us now consider public transportation and the public highways. It would be cheaper and wiser of the Government, rather than building new highways, to thoroughly repair the existing public roads instead. Moreover, in some areas the roads need to be completely rebuilt as that makes better sense.
The roads and sidewalks all over the country need urgent attention. Jamaica is not an oil-producing country; we import our oil, so in order to save money on the importation of this resource we would need to revamp the public transportation system. A more efficient and reliable bus service would cause more people to opt to travel by bus, especially during peak hours. This would reduce the amount of oil needed. Fewer cars would be on the road, which would also aid the environment, improving the air quality.
In creating a strategy for providing affordable housing for Jamaicans, the Government could use available land and manage the urban sprawl by having the National Housing Trust start building beautifully architectured, very spacious and modern high-rise apartment complexes. These projects would provide employment for highly skilled individuals and general labourers to build and provide maintenance for these properties (buildings and grounds).
If all these ideas were employed they would surely have a positive impact on the economy, the mood of the people, boost Jamaica’s image, and would make not just the Jamaican Diaspora want to seriously invest in Jamaica but also rich foreigners. Jamaica would sound and look like the place to live, work, raise families, and do business.
These initiatives will impact the fight against crime and the security forces’ job may be made easier. Studies have shown that unemployment and poverty lead to crime in this nation. If the proposals mentioned above lead to a reduction in unemployment and poverty, there are sure to be recognisable offshoots.
I have heard people refer to Prime Minister Andrew Holness as the Jamaican Obama, but I know he leads in his own way and style. However, if ever I would want to associate him with an American president, it would be Franklin D Roosevelt. This man came into office as president at a terrible time in his nation’s life and gave his country and fellow citizens a “New Deal” plan, similar to Holness’s EGC with the “5 in 4” plan, but more intense. Roosevelt inherited a nation that was broke, starving, in economic depression, and backward. Many people had turned to crime because of unemployment, the feeling of abandonment and hopelessness, the country was unproductive and many American people were giving up. Does that picture look (sound) familiar?
Prime Minister Holness, please invest in Jamaicans, the men and women who have ambition, ideas, and are talented, especially many of those who are at the bottom of society’s economic ladder. They have the capability to create businesses and products and in doing so create a better Jamaica based on production and productivity, so we would have more to market and promote than sun, sand, sea, and reggae music.
President FDR inspired his people and led his nation into prosperity and into a more certain future. His political party won three consecutive election victories. His nation grew from strength to strength, even in the face of opposition from Congress, and the public itself, and when the unforeseen tragedy of being pulled into World War II happened during his presidency, he still proved himself capable of handling the job well.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, I believe that if you play your cards right you could achieve this for Jamaica, or even more than Roosevelt did for his country. But in order to transform Jamaica into the industrial, technological and global financial centre you imagine, you will need more than the help of the EGC. You will need the help of the many ordinary Jamaicans who have skills and business ideas who need financial assistance and some specialist assistance to employ their skills and talents and the skills, talents and labour of other Jamaicans. This I am sure will not only help to grow the economy but it would also greatly improve the distribution of the wealth in the country, even to the lower classes of this society. So don’t overlook them or underestimate their value and potential to help you to accomplish your desire to make Jamaica prosperous. Prosperity for all Jamaicans now!
O’Neil Brown is an author and entrepreneur. Send comments to the Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.