By Caribbean News Now contributor
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Prime Minister Andrew Holness, says the local economy has been experiencing consistent growth for almost 18 consecutive quarters, speaking to participants at the ministry of economic growth and job creation’s strategic leadership retreat at Moon Palace in Ocho Rios, St Ann, meantime adding, that the government will be accelerating the provision of shelter this year under the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme.
Holness said Jamaica is seeing a return to sustainable periods of significant economic growth not witnessed in the country in years. For the 2018 calendar year, the economy grew by 1.9 percent.
The prime minister argued that if the economy continues to maintain this level of growth and achieves two per cent growth [for the year], then Jamaica will be on a trajectory “to its true growth potential, which is about five percent.”
“It shows that there is a certain level of sustainability in what we [the government] are doing, and even though we have had some shocks, we can still recover and keep growing. It is still a good sign that something right is happening within the economy to keep generating quarter after quarter growth,” Holness said.
The prime minister noted that one of the benefits that has arisen due to these current periods of sustainable growth is employment. He said that statistics would show unemployment to be down to eight per cent and stated that this was not by accident, but a product of deliberate policies enacted by the government. He said the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme, which falls under the ministry of economic growth and job creation, is one key area which the government has focused on to contribute to the increase in employment.
The programme provides educational and job opportunities for persons aged 18 to 24 who are not employed or enrolled in any school or training initiatives. “Over 10,000 youngsters are in the programme and are cycling through… that is, they have completed a year or so and they have graduated from the programme and a new batch is coming in. I am sure agency heads who have participated in the programme can testify to the transformative effects that the programme has had and how it has now opened up the minds of the young people who have participated, and now you are creating a workforce that is work-ready,” the prime minister said.
“So, the deliberate programmes that we have put in the place, such as the HOPE programme, have done a lot to increase employment both in terms of the short-term apprenticeship-type programme and also ensuring that the labour that we have is at a level of training that they can access the employment that exists in the economy,” he added.
The strategic leadership retreat is a four-day event aimed at aligning the work of the ministry with portfolio agencies, create a greater level of synergy to deliver a higher quality of work and service and to motivate and build greater relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
Connected the focused on strategic leadership for high performance, and to create a greater level of synergy to motivate and build greater relationships with internal and external stakeholders, Holness says, the HOPE programme will be accelerated. “Now, we are going to be mobilising the housing aspect and you will recall that we have allocated $1billion to start. The idea is to support the development of affordable housing solutions right across Jamaica,” he said.
“We will be looking to improve housing situations such as [people] leaving out of tenement yards [and] big yards. Those situations are the ones we want to target. So if we can make an impact on this kind of housing situation, then we would have started well down the road to addressing the issue of housing,” he added.
Meantime Holness announced that Danville Walker had been brought on board as director of the housing trust under HOPE. “He is a good fit,” the prime minister said. “In the 2000s, when we had a major hurricane that damaged schools and houses across the island, the then government formed the office of national reconstruction (ONR) and that was led by Danville Walker. So he has the experience, know-how and the knowledge to mobilise and manage this kind of construction to make sure that (projects) come in on time, are done efficiently and within budget,” he said.