Opposition presents nine-point ‘prescription for growth’
OPPOSITION spokesman on finance and planning, Audley Shaw, yesterday presented what he described as the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) ‘prescription for growth’, as he responded to last week’s opening budget debate presentation from Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips.
The “prescription” prioritised stabilisation of the exchange rate, which Shaw said needed careful management to stop the present slide of the dollar, as well as a proposal to increase the loan ceiling for National Housing Trust (NHT) borrowers.
“Jamaica just cannot take any more devaluation at this time… We need to build consensus around many things.
One of these is the need to settle down to a stable exchange regime, while we work on the other structural impediments that sap investor confidence and retard growth,” Shaw told the House of Representatives as he presented the Opposition’s response to the Government’s controversial 2014/15 budget measures.
Regarding the NHT’s lending ceiling, Shaw said that the ceiling on the amount of funds loaned to a contributor should move from $4.5 million to $6 million, which would make $12 million available in a joint ownership arrangement.
“This would give NHT contributors greater access to a wider choice of homes,” Shaw said.
He also proposed that Government:
• Ramp up education and training at all levels;
• Remake JAMPRO into a well-oiled investment and trade-facilitation machine;
• Fast-track new and cheaper sources of energy for the economy;
• Engineer and incentivise greater access to low-cost credit;
• Recapitalise and expand the EXIM Bank of Jamaica;
• Reduce transfer and stamp duty by one per cent each; and
• Fast-track the divestment of the Kingston Container Terminal.
Shaw said that an imperative of the growth strategy must be to significantly ramp up education and training programmes, including retraining of 2,000 teachers now without jobs, in early childhood teaching methods and deploy them in government-run infant schools.
He said that character education needed to be introduced among every cohort in the entire education system from early childhood to university levels.
He also suggested that PetroCaribe funding and the Universal Access Fund be used to drive the mission.
“We must be united in facing the urgent task of tackling the crisis of human underdevelopment in Jamaica,” he commented.
He said that JAMPRO has to become a major agent of market penetration and merchandising support for fledgling, but highpotential exporters. He added that JAMPRO should also target tourism aggressively for new investments.