Stop sitting and waiting

jamaicans urged to move forward through export earning

KINGSTON – Gordon “Butch” Stewart yesterday urged Jamaicans to stop sitting around waiting for an International Monetary Fund deal and to get on with the job of moving Jamaica forward through export earning.

“We are all sitting around waiting for an IMF deal to draw down on funds from various sources. All that represents is borrowing, borrowing, and more borrowing,” the business mogul said.

He noted that the country’s debt stock based on 2012 figures was US$8.6 billion or J$1.7 trillion, and that the ratio of debt to gross domestic product had grown from 18 per cent in 1973 to 128 per cent in 2012.

“We have borrowed out our souls, and sold everything else, without achieving the prosperous Jamaica we all want,” Stewart said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer, of which he is chairman.

In terms of per capita income, the average earning of each Jamaican (US$5,402 nominal), he said, only Haiti in the region was worse off than Jamaica.

“Dominica is way ahead. The Bahamas is five times ahead, Barbados, St Lucia, everybody really, except Haiti, is ahead.”

Since the beginning of the year, Stewart has been sharing ideas drawn from his vast experience as the Caribbean’s leading hotelier to help spur Jamaica forward in 2013.

Yesterday, he reminded Jamaicans that it would not be an IMF agreement that would bring prosperity, but “the things we do to earn our way out of our difficulties”.

“If we get the policies right and offer Jamaicans the right environment and the right incentives, our investors will export. There was such a time when we placed more emphasis on exports. When did Jamaica change from being a country with a will to do everything to earn hard currency to being a country that is dependent on borrowing?

“When did we lose sight of the need to balance our budget by trying to earn in order to create our own prosperity and lift our citizens to the aspirational standard that everybody craves?” he asked.

“Borrowing only buys us a few months. We have to ensure that Jamaicans are persuaded that risk-taking in export ventures is worth it. Let’s stop being a basket case when we can do so much better.”

The Sandals Resorts International chairman said if he sounded impatient it might be because he had just returned from a business trip to England.

“Being on that side of the world is almost like looking into a prism and seeing the world from a different perspective. Every country has its challenges, but every country is talking about increasing exports and doing everything they could to increase exports.

“For our part, I have to wonder when did we stop thinking exports and started to concentrate our efforts on borrowing as the way forward? This is the biggest fallacy of the day. Not having our own earnings is why the Jamaican dollar is 94 to one (US dollar) and falling,” Stewart argued. (Observer)

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