John Mahfood, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) has praised Jamaica’s efforts towards sustainable economic growth and development over the past eight years.
Mahfood highlighted the significant economic reforms undertaken over the past eight years that have led to a gradual reduction in the country’s debt and balance of payments, and a corresponding increase in economic growth.
He said that this out-turn “is allowing the Government to [generate significant] budgets,” and based on current developments, “the Jamaican people are now going to be seeing the benefits of that hard work and sacrifice”.
Dr Nigel Clarke, minister of Finance and the Public Service,echoed this sentiment in his 2023/24 Budget Debate presentation, indicating that the economy is estimated to have expanded by 3.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2022, “signalling the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Clarke also highlighted economic growth of 5.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2022, 4.8 per cent in the second quarter, and 6.5 per cent in the first quarter. The Minister added that the previous year saw economic expansion of 6.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2021, 5.9 per cent in the third quarter, and a record 14.2 per cent recovery in the second quarter of 2021.
Mahfood believes that based on this pattern, “I think that we are looking forward to a good 2023/24, in terms of economic development and growth.”
He also praised several programmed provisions outlined in the Budget, including investments in road and water infrastructure, a US$215-million investment in irrigation for Pedro Plains in St. Elizabeth, the announced turnaround in the National Water Commission’s (NWC) fortunes, and their ability to operate independently of Government support.
“It may not happen overnight, but I think we are on the right track,” he said.
Mahfood welcomed the waiving of HEART/NSTA Trust fees for programmes up to Level IV (Associate Degree), and the 44 per cent minimum wage increase, describing these as two “good moves”.
Mahfood also highlighted the proposed increase in land titling and National Housing Trust (NHT) loan provisions, which he believes will allow more people to own houses in Jamaica, leading to further economic growth.
He said, “as people now have land titles, they can go and borrow money against the land title from [the] NHT or other institutions to build houses or farms or whatever it is, which will help [to further spur] the economic growth of the country.”