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But after decades of slow and sometimes negative growth, the country is taking a strategic turn, with plans to leverage its countless other strengths — including its key geographic location and the largest English-speaking workforce in the Caribbean — to transform, diversify and strengthen its economy.
Located at the center of the Caribbean, right outside the Panama Canal, Jamaica is at the crossroads of North-South and East-West shipping lanes and plans to join Singapore, Dubai and Rotterdam as the fourth node in global logistics.
To further take advantage of this strength, the Andrew Holness Administration has implemented a long-awaited educational reform slated to take effect at the start of the 2017 school year.
A key part of this reform was the establishment of Spanish as the second national language.
“The quality of the education a child receives, will impact the quality of human resource input in the economy,” he said in February 2016.
He added, “We may not all be rich, but no one has to be poor.” In September 2016, the EGC published a set of policy recommendations known as the eight Growth Initiatives with the ambitious objective of reaching 5% annual economic growth by 2020, known as the “5 in 4.” “The seeming inability to achieve appreciable levels of economic growth now threatens the social fabric of Jamaica,” said EGC Chairman Michael Lee Chin, recognizing the urgency of a profound economic reform.
Jamaican leaders readily acknowledge the country’s growth has been less than stellar since its independence.
“Jamaica is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and human potential but somehow, these have not been converted to sustainable economic growth for the majority of our independent experience,” says Economic Growth Council (EGC) Chairman Michael Lee Chin.
The most prominent is its high crime rate and insecurity — Kingston is said to be among the most dangerous capitals in the world.To keep assets from remaining dormant, which generates only small returns and does not contribute to jobs or employment, the EGC advises implementing mechanisms that promote greater utilization of these assets to induce economic growth.This would include promoting privatization, public-private partnerships, and similar transactions.To promote more financial risk taking, which vibrant economies require, the council recommends a number of regulatory reforms, such as reducing minimum capital test requirements for insurance companies, developing new housing finance solutions for lower income households, strengthening the venture capital and angel investor ecosystem, and bringing the taxation of financial services in line with other sectors.Tackling bureaucratic inefficiency, the EGC recommends streamlining processes for small businesses employing fewer than 10 people, faster application and permitting approvals, improving courts’ efficiency in areas such as contract enforcement, extending the hours to process more matters, and simplifying import-export procedures.