Former Minister of Planning and Principal, UWI
I do like the emphasis on Ease of Doing Business, in the Budget statement,7which if achieved, will significantly enhance efficiency and competitiveness.But where will we start? How long will it take to get the range of interconnected measures done?
I like the idea of a five year tax free Agriculture Industry, but the persistent bottle necks, land tenure, praedal larceny,irrigation, flood, access roads, efficient management of even those incentives which already exist, the efficient functioning of the market, the introduction of technology, and so many other things stand in the way of progress.
The Minister said at the TTMA webinar that manufacturing was the peg on which he was hanging this budget. That is good This sector can grow sales, markets, exports and jobs but manufacturing has to be supported to be their competitive best.And industries in the sector itself have to transform and become more competitive and innovative.
Constuction of homes. This can create much needed housing and generate a lot of jobs and stimulate the mortgage market.But we need the existing economy to recover, so that people now out of work can begin working again and consider investing in homes.
Computers, smartphones, tablets, internet connectivity, access, on line, these things mean everything now, but what is Digitization going to do for government services, business competitiveness and growth, educational productivity and higher performance and how will this platform prepare our businesses to grow their share of the world market?
These are the hard policy and strategy issues that have to be worked out beyond the announcements of the budget.
How do you get things done? How do you connect things that need to be connected?
How do you make things happen? How do you get the results and outcomes that are desirable? These are the formidable tasks.
Despite those things in the Budget which I like, and the niggling issues of performance and results that trouble me, there are bigger, even more troubling issues.
For instance how are we going to deal with the dwindling foreign reserves because of imbalances of imports to exports? Where is our non energy export , foreign exchange earnings going to come from?
Someone or some team, in the government, has to take that on as a task and make it an obsession.And make it happen, systematically, but surely.Or a Private Sector export group with support from government can collaborate to make things happen.Forex is King.
We want to fix water. We want to transform Agriculture. We want to build 25000 houses, we want to solve flooding.We want to prepare for when Tourism bounces back, say 30 months from now, we want to address Climate Change, land use, illegal quarrying, we want to practice sustainable development, we want a greener economy, we want to put solar energy on the grid, we want to create jobs, do we not see the connections and connectivities among these things?
Would this not require an integrated planning approach and a whole of government delivery system, to address, the various challenges and solutions,from hill to coasts; from rivers to streams and drains; from water capture, to retention ponds to storage to irrigation; to new housing settlements with wastewater harvesting, solar lighting in the homes as well as in the street.?
Connect the dots.
We must focus on non energy exporting companies and foreign exchange earnings, we must address labour intensive job creation opportunities which enhance the environment, build up community and national assets, and contribute to the development and enhancement of productive sectors as we recognise that life will continue in a certain way, and economic recovery will be slow in the prevaccine period; and that once the vaccine begins to be distributed, and the world already transforming and restructuring as we speak, begins to focus, recoup and recovery will be faster for those that will have survived, and that any company or institution which has truly transformed in terms of technology,v systems , alliances, and overall effectiveness will be truly ready for take off.
This COVID period without a vaccine really presents the survival test. But to the extent that significant restructuring and transformation takes place pre vaccine, that will determine the readiness to take off and fly post vaccine as economies strive for expansion and growth.
So countries and economies need to restructure and transform. In addition to Agriculture and Manufacturing and Digitization, we need a whole new economy,to absorb Tertiary graduates,to spawn new entrepreneurs and to connect with a technology driven, competitive world. We have to think throgh how to get from digitization to where we need to go.
We cannot wait till COVID is over to begin to do that.We must restructure, transform and create now, even though its hard.