Sunday, 7 September 2014

Productivity and Growth in Jamaica (Part Two)



This past week had raving fan fare on the announcement of Jamaica’s upward movement on the Global Competitive Index; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-moves-up-8-places-on-Global-Competitiveness-Index_17469155. The report defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. The index is also an indicator of economic growth and provides an early warning signal for what can become a better economic future. Innovation, mobile broadband subscription, and Government budget balance were the areas with significant movement on the index. Both private sector and public sector entities are responsible for any economic growth prospect to be realized in Jamaica. Neither of these sectors can succeed without the other, as both sectors form the nation’s economic ecosystem and need each to survive.

Innovation is the one common feature available to either sector enabling each of them to grow for the mutual benefit of all.

The real sweet spot in innovation for Jamaica is in the area of telecommunication or as some people put it, Information communication and technology (ICT). Some quarters may have it that, we chat a lot in Jamaica and so voice service is the preferred service sold by the two service providers, and this as oppose to active mobile broadband service for data services.Chatting is a means of educating one’s self, but this is channel of gaining knowledge is sometimes limited to the literacy level (knowledge base) of the chatters’ exchange and may not be as informed as they could otherwise be with valid third party information. Data services is more than just chat, as it provides a stream of data in more forms the one e.g.
  1. video, 
  2. audio and
  3. printed content
The stream of information would, by extension, improve the chatters’ literacy level (knowledge base) thus moving Jamaica’s adult literacy rate from its current 87 to 97 over time or even to 99 where Barbados is currently rated. See International Communication Union annual report - Measuring the Information Society 2013. Pg. 250.http://www.itu.int/en/ITUD/Statistics/Documents/publications/mis2013/MIS2013_without_Annex_4.pdf

This adult literacy rate gap problem can be fixed in short order if the data services capacity infrastructure is built out and promoted specifically to benefit the connection economy so that new sprout can spring for Jamaica i.e;
  1. Smart phone ownership, (Private Sector - Commercial Activities)
  2. Broadband speed and (Public Sector – Incentive Policies)
  3. Data access points (Public and Private – Wireless Point)
These things coupled with an already developed National Development Plan Vision 2030 can be made available jump starting the innovation for the growth agenda to take off making it easier, faster and cheaper to get to. See Vision 2030; http://www.vision2030.gov.jm/National-Development-Plan.

No success can be had without the vigilant eyes of the Government to ensure these developments are free from corruption and of the highest order of transparency. I want to draw your attention to the Corruption Perception Index and where Jamaica is ranked (83) compared to Barbados (15). See index; http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2013/results/. Jamaica is not highly rated and need to improve our ranking.

From the Corruption Perception Index you will see that we have a far way to go, but this is not to say that nothing is happening. The establishment of the Major Organized Crime Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) is a step in the right direction. See article; http://jamaicagleaner.com/gleaner/20140907/focus/focus6.html

Productivity and growth are what we desire and a comparison between Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica Republic and Jamaica can’t be a positive comparison. A better comparison certainly would be one between Barbados and Jamaica. Yes, I know some folks would say we can’t compare, but I would say, look to the heavens where you want to go and not to the valleys from which you came from.

What we really need are Growth Based Policies and not an Industry Policy per se, those days of industry as we knew it, has changed. It is no longer the mechanics of an engine in the industrial age, but more so the mechanics of the internet in the digital age as now exists that will move Jamaica forward. Any competitiveness we can achieve must be with the consideration of the digital age through our local service providers providing data service. The connection economy is the new drivers of industry, example Google, Facebook, EBay and Alibaba. General Electric is still profitable, but pale in comparison to the connection economy companies.

Ian Boyne http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140907/focus/focus1.html

Feel free to comment and ask question.

FII