By Chris Patterson
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – Jamaica’s economic performance is the best it has ever been, says minister of finance and the public service, Dr Nigel Clarke. He cited, among the indicators, the country’s robust foreign exchange reserves, low unemployment rate, low debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, as well as sustained periods of growth.
“Jamaica, today, has macroeconomic fundamentals that represent the best that we have ever had. Our foreign exchange reserves are US$4.7 billion approaching US$5 billion, greater than it has ever been, and is up 56 percent from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Clarke said. “Our unemployment rate is at the lowest level it has ever been, at 4.5 percent, with 148,000 jobs created over the past seven years and we have recovered from the pandemic in terms of output. To top it off, our debt is the lowest it has been in approximately 25 years.” The minister noted that Jamaica has recorded 20 consecutive quarters of positive economic growth, pointing out that the government is working to ensure that “the periods of growth that you have are longer and longer.”
Dr Clarke was addressing the opening session of the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) sub-regional policy dialogue on Ecosystems of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Caribbean region, at the AC Hotel by Marriott Kingston on Wednesday, October 18, 2023.
The two-day forum is engaging Caribbean policymakers and private sector stakeholders in strategic discussions on creating and strengthening eco-systems that support entrepreneurship and innovation in the region, and ways to strengthen them to increase economic development.
Minister Clarke noted that the government has implemented deliberate strategies and policies to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with the country recording an 11 percent increase in the number of registered companies in 2022. Over 5,400 entities were registered last year with the Companies Office of Jamaica (COJ).
“We have never had as many companies formed in Jamaica as in the current era. A lot of it is due to the macroeconomic environment that exists, which is extremely positive, where stability is entrenched, and people have an optimistic view of the future. But it is also due to the vibrant ecosystem that we are creating in Jamaica,” Dr Clarke said.
He noted that a lot of the support to SMEs is being provided in partnership with the IDB, through the Boosting Innovation Growth and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem (BIGEE) project, accelerator and incubator programmes, a patent grant fund, angel investors funds, and private equity funds, among other inputs.
“The ecosystem that we have supported and nurtured is worth $13 billion… for equity investment, to support innovation and entrepreneurship in Jamaica,” the minister pointing out that the abolition of the minimum business tax and the asset tax further served to assist thousands of entrepreneurs.
“Never before in Jamaica’s history has so much equity been available for… entrepreneurial or innovative companies in Jamaica,” Dr Clarke pointed out.
In his address, general manager, country department Caribbean Group and Country Representative, Jamaica, IDB, Anton Edmunds, pledged the institution’s support to nurture entrepreneurship and innovation in the region through strategic investments, mobilising private sector resources, collaboration between public and private sector players, policy advocacy and knowledge sharing.
“We want to be the partner to help create the ecosystem where entrepreneurs thrive, where research and development is encouraged and innovation flourishes,” he said.
Edmunds emphasised that there is urgent need for greater collaboration and innovation in the countries and region to drive sustainable growth efforts.