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Let's get back to 'built by Labour'!

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Dear Editor,

Columnist Dorlan Francis wrote an excellent column in Sunday Observer The Agenda magazine of November 5, 2017, titled 'Andrew Holness, it's time to earn Edward Seaga's mantle'.

It led me to the World Bank database, at which one can review Jamaica's economic growth measured in gross domestic product (GDP) over the years. It is interesting that over the last few decades we have struggled to reach the GDP levels even at the lowest point in the late 60s, early 70s when Seaga was minister of finance. Indeed, under Seaga's stewardship, as Francis pointed out, Jamaica experienced significant economic growth and development. In fact, much of the major infrastructure on the island began or was completed in the era 1967-72 when Seaga was finance minister, and again in the mid-80s when Seaga was elected prime minister and also served as minister of finance and planning.

Seaga also ensured significant strides were made in human resource and cultural development to complement growth. With economic development comes jobs and improvement in quality of life and standard of living, regardless of one's income.

I recall a memorable Jamaica Labour Party political TV advertisement that ran when I was a child. In it school after school was named, and Hugh Shearer (JLP) responded emphatically, “Built by Labour!”

I've often wondered why we have not seen any new high schools being built despite the significant growth in population and migratory patterns to major cities and the challenges the Grade Six Achievement Test places on our youngsters. What's more, high school spots are very limited, at least in traditional schools.

We struggle to understand why our crime rate has spiked when it is all linked to the current state of the economy; high unemployment, extreme poverty, and lack of opportunities which are all tied in to decades of stagnant growth in our economy, even decline in growth to negative levels.

Having reviewed the GDP growth chart depicting our economic growth since 1967, there are two major periods of significant positive growth: 1967-72, 1985-92. Both periods can be attributed to Edward Seaga (Michael Manley succeeded Seaga as prime minister in 1989, and P J Patterson took over from Manley in 1992- 2006).

Our policymakers and financial and economic planners must not ignore the past. Though times have changed, and we are directly influenced by global markets, there are many lessons we can study from the past which could perhaps help us to get back on track as a country.

In recent decades the major piece of development we have seen is the highways, built by the Chinese and the French. And, while this is certainly beneficial, we cannot ignore infrastructure and other forms of development which stimulate economic growth.

Thanks to the Jamaica Observer for sharing this very insightful column.


P Chin


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