Residents of Maryland, a rustic community in east rural St Andrew, came with high anticipation last Thursday to hear co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Keith Duncan explain elements of the Government’s deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but they didn’t just come to listen.
At a Gleaner On The Corner Forum in the community, residents wanted to know how the IMF deal would improve their lives, and they wanted the details without any of the economic terms usually used in discussing the IMF.
Duncan was up to the task as he explained the ABCs of the programme.
Joel Ferguson was first to bowl at the EPOC co-chairman as he wanted to know what would happen for the residents of Maryland and other grass-roots Jamaicans when the current programme comes to an end in three years.
“We want to have growth levels anywhere between three and five per cent. When we say the economy, we mean all the goods and services – manufacturing, distribution, bar, everything – all the services that make up the economy. We want to grow the economy so that you can get the jobs you need,” explained Duncan.
He noted that the more jobs that are created, the more revenue there would be for the Government from more taxes paid by goods and service providers, which would lead to the provision of better roads, better health facilities, and better infrastructure in communities such as Maryland.
Duncan pointed out that the IMF programme was not political as the current Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration and the former People’s National Party (PNP) government both agree on the need for better management of the economy.
Crime Affecting Growth
Everton Knight, one of the residents, expressed the view that crime was a major factor affecting economic growth not only in his community, but nationally.
He outlined some of the factors that he believed caused crime and the resultant downturn in economic activity.
Support for the position came from Cecil Robinson. “When free zone used to run, you see all the buses. Dem bend. Dem lean. A pure woman inna dat. You see dung a Waterhouse, dem man have dem M16 lean up inna de corner. Dem all right. No crime naah gwaan,” said Robinson.
He argued that by getting jobs for Jamaicans, crime would be reduced.
Fellow resident Christine Rookwood-Pinto nodded in agreement as she declared: “I want to back him because lack of jobs for the young people is a major problem. Men have women and don’t have jobs to carry them out. The woman at home want money to look after the children, so it’s lack of jobs that lead to crime and violence in Jamaica on a whole,” she told the gathering.
That was a position accepted by Duncan, who noted that the IMF plan was all about growing the economy and creating jobs.
“The bottom line is that the economy must create jobs for people, educate people so they can position themselves to get jobs. The primary goal of this plan is to create jobs, but we have to take the crime down,” said Duncan.
Mother of three Marvette Cain made her concerns clear from early, not holding back on the preferential treatment she believes is being handed to the Chinese investors.
Duncan explained that part of the Government’s plan was that Jamaicans must be employed by the Chinese and noted that the country was seeing the highest levels of foreign direct investment in years.
Balford Ferguson urged the EPOC co-chair to re-examine the IMF programme to see if it was tailored to meet the needs of residents such as those in his community, which lacks many amenities.
At the end of the more than hour-long session, Carlos Barrett spoke for his neighbours as he welcomed the visit from the EPOC co-chair and expressed hope that the IMF deal would benefit the people of Maryland and all Jamaica.