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Jamaica must export a lot more

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May 2023

Prime Minister Andrew Holness marks the opening of Expo Jamaica 2023 with a ribbon cutting, joined by (from left) Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) director Kathryn Silvera; Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Senator Aubyn Hill; Minister of Transport and Mining Audley Shaw; JMEA President John Mahfood; and chairman of the organising committee of Expo Jamaica 2023 Aswad Morgan. (Photo: Llewelyn Wynter)

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 02 May 2023    admin   

In the 61 years between 1960 and 2021 Jamaica produced a positive trade balance in only one of those years. That was a very long time ago in 1966. Over that 61-year period, our trade balance has become progressively worse, and it is a serious and depressing drag-weight on Jamaica's economic growth performance.

Since 1966 the trade balance has grown wider and wider. Today there is literally a chasm between the vast amount of goods and services we import annually, compared to the relatively measly amount that we export.

I was prompted to ask my research team to provide these trade balance numbers about a year ago when in early May 2022 the Statistical Institute of Jamaica published the 2021 trade figures. They were stark.

For the calendar year 2021, Jamaica imported US$5.975 billion and exported a mere US$1.441 billion to produce a whopping negative trade balance of US$4.534 billion. Figures 1 and 2 show the perennially and ever-growing sharp negative divergence between our strong import numbers and the very weak export ones.

There are a number of compelling reasons we simply must export a lot more. We have a small country surrounded by sea; therefore, we cannot expand our land mass by somehow moving our land borders. We do not have a large population like, say, India (1.4 billion), China (1.3 billion), or the US (350 million). While India's per capita gross domestic product [GDP] (US$1,961 in 2021) is less than Jamaica's (US$4,971), given its huge population and a large and growing middle class (between 200-300 million people) India can support substantial economic growth based simple on population size. Jamaica has none of those demographic-scale privileges.

Some important numbers militate against us just trading with ourselves to become a wealthy country. Jamaica's per capita GDP (the amount each Jamaican would get if the country's GDP was split among all Jamaicans), is desperately low in Caricom. We are near the bottom. We lead in many things in the Caribbean; per capita GDP is not one of them. The figures are disturbing: Bahamas (26,705.60); St Kitts & Nevis (18,795.90); Barbados (14,800.80); Antigua & Barbuda (14,692.40); Trinidad & Tobago (14,179.60); Guyana (10,857.30); St Lucia (9,362.40); Dominican Republic (8,410.60); Grenada (8,223.30); St Vincent & Grenadines (7,926.70); Suriname (7,008.40); Dominica (6,964.80); Belize (5,733.40); Jamaica (4,971.90); and Haiti (1,283.10).

It is patently clear that we will not become a wealthy country selling to and trading among about only three million relatively poor people. We may not be able to physically invade new lands, but we can travel to and negotiate new markets for Jamaican products and services. That is the path that Jamaica's "Business Ministry", the Ministry of Industry Investment and Commerce, has been charting since about the middle of last year.

We simply cannot stay in our Jamaican offices and secure export markets in a very competitive world with inflation and recession clouding the economic landscape. In the six months between October last year and March 2023 I have led four business delegations of between 35-75, primarily business people, to Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic seeking new markets and to strengthen existing ones. We will be travelling to other cities and countries to expand the borders of Jamaica's markets. The continued strong positive responses from the many executives who travelled with us, spending their own money, is testimony to the benefit they gained from the access a ministerial delegation is able to give them in foreign markets.

See full story here:

Source: Jamaica Observer 

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