To the rescue

KINGSTON – Jamaican manufacturers could employ an additional 50,000 people and contribute in excess of three percentage points more to GDP in five years, says the leader of the island’s manufacturing association.

Brian Pengelley, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association, on Thursday introduced five pillars on which the nation must build the recovery of the sector, which has seen its contribution to GDP and employment decline over the last 30 years. Preferential treatment towards local products; an investor friendly environment; more investments in the productive sector; efficiencies and productivity; and collaboration among all stakeholders formed the foundation outlined by the JMA boss.

“Manufacturers, we have a critical role to play in the recovery of Jamaica’ s economy and we must take the lead on communicating and aligning consumers, government and all Jamaicans on the importance of our sector as one of the primary engines of growth,” said Pengelley.

“There will be no recovery should we continue to be a nation of importers,” he said at the JMA’s 44th Annual Awards Banquet and presentation ceremony.

Indeed, once a vibrant industry that employed over 120,000 persons and contributed more than 20 per cent to GDP up to the 1980s, Jamaican manufacturing has been stymied by numerous factors, including macro-economic uncertainty, the high cost of electricity, crime, bureaucracy, shortage of skills and a lack of support for locally made products.

Today the sector contributes 8.6 per cent to GDP and employs 74,800 persons. Still, there’s no questioning the importance of the industry to nation building. It contributes $30.5 billion in taxes and earns US$739.2 million in foreign exchange annually.

“We fervently believe that in five years we can improve these numbers to that of 12 per cent of GDP and employ an additional 50,000 people. That must be worth going after,” said Pengelley.

He urged Jamaicans to buy local products, calling it one of the most simple yet impactful action of stimulating growth and job creation. Food imports currently cost the country a whopping US$800 million per annum. (Observer)

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