In a far-reaching and wide ranging effort to overhaul the Jamaican economy to become the regional economic mecca, providing real, workable options, especially for the unemployed and unattached youth, the opposition People’s National Party, June 12, launched its Youth Employment, Innovation and New Economy Commission.
The Commission, which was unveiled at a press conference at the office of the Leader of the Opposition, will explore and provide policy frameworks that will reinvent the Jamaican economy with the keys to unlock job potentials and technological and financial power.
Leader of Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips said the aim of the Commission is to recommend policy options that will change the structure of the Jamaican economy. When the People’s National Party takes office, these options will be available as we seek to change the fundamental pillars of our economy, which have remained static since Independence.
He said Jamaica’s economic activity is still largely focused on the provision of traditional goods and services, but without innovative changes in the production and delivery process.
“We have not replaced the traditional sectors with any new modern sectors, and we continue to rely on the declining export of raw materials. The new economy is yet to emerge,” Phillips said.
Phillips highlighted a recent employment indicator which shows that with 1,358,300 people employed in Jamaica, the largest numbers are in wholesale and retail, repair of motor vehicles and equipment, which represents around 20 per cent. Agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing represent the second largest sector at 15%; construction 9% and hotel and restaurant services 9%.
In 2002, only six per cent of our exports were mid-to high-tech manufacturing, and the situation has not improved.
The sectors of future focus will be determined by what remain globally competitive as the world’s economy advances through technology.
Chairman of the Commission financier, Gary Peart said that Jamaica has excelled in many areas except how to develop sustainable wealth creation. “We have to be on par with what is driving the world today… We don’t have to recreate wealth or new ideas … Artificial Intelligence (A.I), for example, is a burgeoning industry but we have to see how we fit in,” he said.
He added that the country needs solutions to the economic problems and all hands should be on deck.
“We will tap into the brilliant minds to get the policies out there, to drive the new economy,” Peart said.
Another critical deficit is the low productivity of the labour force which is directly related to the low level of education and training. “Even as we increase our tertiary Enrolment rates, the gap between our graduates and the labour market requirements for a modern economy widens.
“The relatively few tertiary graduates who don’t migrate have a difficult time finding employment while reports from many employers are that they have a difficult time finding suitable candidates,” Dr. Phillips added.
The engagement of young people during the Party’s continuing Listening Tour, has confirmed that the current structure of the Jamaican economy is untenable. The nation must grapple with the challenges which go beyond the tertiary students’ experience, and take into account those who lack academic qualifications and employable skill sets. The unemployment rate among young Jamaicans overall remains considerably high at 31.2%, compared to the national average of 12.7%.
Speaking on the work of the Commission, Phillips said while the framework will seek to enable innovation, creativity and sound business outcomes for young people across a range of sectors, there are some sectors of focus that the Commission will examine closely to inform specific recommendations.