By Caribbean News Now contributor
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Jamaica is moving to improve trade relations with the Cayman Islands, prime minister Andrew Holness said speaking to the Jamaican diaspora in the Cayman. He also engaged bilateral talks with the Premier of the Cayman Islands Alden McLaughlin and government officials; amid the framework that Jamaica is experiencing an unprecedented level of economic activity, with 17 consecutive quarters of growth, resulting from the policy of his administration.
“In our bilateral talks we have been discussing ways in which that can be achieved, of course, there is the issue of the visa requirement, but I don’t look at things as absolute obstacles. I think that there should be talks on this matter as the Jamaican economy improves, as we are finding labour for our people. The relationship between our two countries will slowly be redefined to the point where a visa may not even be necessary, that’s the objective, that’s what we want to do.”
The Jamaican economy
Prime minister Holness explained the significant improvements in the Jamaican economy over the past three years particularly in the country’s employment figures.
“It is important to improve the economic and other ties with Cayman,” Holness said. “I would also want to say to you that, now it’s time for Jamaica to be reaching out and having its trade deals with its neighbours. Stronger trade with Jamaica and Cayman is now quite possible and necessary.”
Holness also alluded to the fact that Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has decreased over the years along with other aspects of economic growth.
“In 2013, our debt was about 150 percent of GDP now we are at 98 percent of GDP, in the 60s Jamaica was experiencing economic growth of over seven percent as high as 12 percent. So today our economic growth is above one percent but below two percent and it has been that way for the past four years and we have not yet passed the two percent threshold, but the good news is that we are growing” prime minister Holness said.
The prime minister told members of the diaspora in the Cayman Islands to invest in Jamaica as the future of the country’s economy is promising: “The only way forward now is up, and I feel the confidence in the economy. In the society our consumer index in terms of measuring confidence and the producer index in terms of confidence is high, very high, historically high records,” he said.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, addresses the fundraising dinner of the East Central St James Education Fund at the Jewel Grande Montego Bay Hotel & Spa in Rose Hall. [Photo: Garwin Davis]
Seventeen consecutive quarters of growth
Meantime in Jamaica, addressing a fundraising dinner, Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, stated that the country is experiencing an unprecedented level of economic activity, with 17 consecutive quarters of growth, and unemployment now at the lowest rate in the nation’s history.
“We have never had unemployment this low where more people are employed today than those who are unemployed,” adding, “The economic activity all around is staggering in its volume. When you go around Jamaica there is evidence of things taking place…; everywhere you go something new is happening. If you haven’t visited an area in three months and you are only just going back there, expect to see something you hadn’t seen in your previous visit,” he said.
Central bank policy
Dr Clarke told his audience that the central bank policy interest rate, which is now less than one per cent has helped to spur economic activity by making borrowing more attractive.
“When you look at where interest rates are… they have been reduced for the tenth consecutive time. What this means is that businesses can borrow at lower and lower rates and where they are comfortable in knowing that the terms are friendly,” he said.
National Housing Trust (NHT)
Dr Clarke said that more houses are being built in Jamaica, with the National Housing Trust (NHT) taking the lead in that regard, and young people “are getting in on the act by owning their own homes and paying their mortgages” he added. “A lot of young persons can now live a more affordable life than their parents could because of the economic opportunities that are there.”
Dr Clarke attributes this to the policies of the current administration that have opened up the fiscal space to increase investment in development projects; and that capital expenditure has increased from $30 billion to $72 billion for the period 2015 to 2019.
“It is the capital expenditure that allows for the improvement in the standard of living. It is the capital expenditure that leads to the improvement in the delivery of service.
“We are allocating $1 billion to the Ministry of National Security for the procurement of 1,000 police vehicles, and we are doing the same in the sum of $3 billion to the ministry of health and wellness in infrastructural work at the Cornwall Regional Hospital,” Dr Clarke said.