Clarke pushes for greater attention on agriculture resilience, BPO

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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FINANCE and the Public Service Minister, Nigel Clarke, has called for improved focus on initiatives aimed at building Jamaica's agricultural resilience and business process outsourcing sector as the country continue its pursuit of economic independence.

Clarke, in emphasising that economic independence means more options regarding spending priorities, particularly on areas that have a higher growth-inducing impact, noted that the Government's focus on achieving economic independence will expand opportunities for Jamaicans, while safeguarding the vulnerable.

“I want to make sure that we allocate more (in areas) that can increase productivity,” Clarke said, adding that the training of personnel for the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector is also integral in the growth of the country.

He was speaking at Sterling Asset Management Limited's annual investor briefing at the Spanish Court Hotel, New Kingston, on June 7.

“The BPO industry is competitive… and we want to make it a more productive space. So, to the extent that the BPO operator can save that cost when they recruit … that lowers operational costs for them. So expenditure that can bring about that training (will assist in repositioning) Jamaica (to) become a more productive destination,” he reasoned.

Clarke said other priorities are to strengthen the macro-fiscal capacity of the Ministry and its institutions and “ensure that we have methods of deepening our fiscal rules and strengthening the fiscal responsibility framework with the emergence of a fiscal council.”

Establishment of the fiscal council, which has been approved by Cabinet, is consistent with plans by the Government to secure Jamaica's gains under successive economic reform programmes with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and build on the success of domestic partnership initiatives.

For the January to March 2018 quarter, the Jamaican economy grew by estimated 1.2 per cent compared to the corresponding quarter of 2017. According to the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), the positive out-turn for the period reflected increased external demand from Jamaica's main trading partners, which supported increased exports of some goods and services, particularly in the tourism industry.

PIOJ's Director General Dr Wayne Henry also attributed the improved result to increased room capacity and air seat capacity, which facilitated growth in stopover visitor arrivals, and increased capacity utilisation especially in the mining and quarrying and manufacture industries. The mining and quarrying industry was the largest contributor to growth, up 25 per cent over the comparative quarter of 2017.

The agriculture, forestry and fishing industry grew by an estimated 0.5 per cent, facilitated by improved weather conditions, while the services industry, hotels and restaurants registered the highest growth of 1.6 per cent.

The PIOJ now anticipates continued strengthening of performance for most industries for the April to June quarter of 2018 comparative to 2017. Baseline growth for the quarter is expected to be in range of 1.5 to 2.5 per cent, supported by growth in mining and quarrying, agriculture, construction, road rehabilitation, and the hotel and restaurant industry.

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