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LETTER OF THE DAY – Private Sector Must Get Off Its Butt!
Published: Saturday | September 7, 2013

THE EDITOR,
Sir:

Friday’s report that “sections of the private sector remain sceptical about the extended fund facility’s chances of success …” and that “this doubt is borne out of the previous failed International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, as well as the magnitude of the challenges Jamaica faces,” is truly troubling.

Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips said last week that there was “a slight but important and significant improvement in investor confidence” from approval of the IMF arrangement. He added that “business confidence will improve further with Jamaica having passed the first quarterly IMF test”.

Now, we know that the private sector is not a homogeneous mass, but for this doubtful view to be given prominence makes me wonder if Dr Phillips has been misled or if he has misinterpreted the mood of local entrepreneurs. We would expect that foreign investors would be even more sceptical than locals.

My concern is that, if the Government is really going to rely on the private sector to get Jamaica growing, we have a bigger struggle ahead than we realise. If the view is that Government’s failure to adhere to the previous IMF programme holds so much negative weight, how much success under the current programme will be needed to shift that view?

Clearly, if investors wait until the programme period is well under way to get off their hands, the likelihood of growth by the end of the programme would seem to be limited, if not impossible.

Catch-22

This is a real catch-22. I’m not faulting the private sector for its doubts, because Government has betrayed trust badly in the past. This is one of the costs of lack of commitment to reform.

However, if the new social partnership is to mean something, the so-called emphasis on consensus should mean that the private sector has to show that it takes the Government’s latest commitments seriously and believes in the State’s policies and commitment.

If not, let’s all stop fooling around and talking about making more sacrifices. Let’s not hope for more foreign direct investment. If the private sector wants to get behind the effort to move the economy forward, it has to be behind the Government.

Maybe I misunderstood the views expressed, but my feeling is that the private sector wants to play a wait-and-see game, and I fear the patient may well be dead and about to be buried by the time they are ready.

DENNIS JONES

Economist

dennisgjones@gmail.com