Against the backdrop of a scandal over the mistreatment of Jamaican immigrants in the UK that cast a cloud over the 70th anniversary of the Commonwealth, Jamaica’s prime minister Andrew Holness made the case for “economic independence” during his visit to London in mid-April.
On April 20, Mr Holness held his second town hall meeting in London to answer questions from Jamaican ex-patriots and their relatives. His arrival in London coincided with a high-level Commonwealth summit. After meeting with Theresa May and the leaders of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to discuss the Windrush scandal that saw long-time residents of the UK receive deportation orders, Mr Holness reassured his disgruntled audience that he had received word from the British prime minister that all victims of this mishap would be compensated and that pending citizenship disputes would be resolved. Having dealt with the past, he implored the audience to look to Jamaica’s future, laying out his vision for “the road to prosperity”.
“Fiscal discipline” and “economic independence”, Mr Holness announced, were essential for securing Jamaica’s success as a nation. His policy of ‘fiscal discipline’ and his administration’s reforms to the public sector have seen the country’s national debt to GDP ratio fall from 140% to 105% of GDP in recent years. With the government’s efficiency in spending power hampered by servicing national debt, the capital supplied by foreign investors provides some fiscal relief in alleviating the burden of creating sustainable economic growth.
“I won’t apologise for my desire to attract FDI to Jamaica,” Mr Holness declared as he stood firm in his belief that by rebranding Jamaica as a safer, more dynamic destination for foreign investors, it would help to facilitate and accelerate what he referred to as the country’s “economic independence”. When the issue of Jamaican labourers suffering mistreatment at the hands of Chinese investors was raised by a member of the audience, Mr Holness stated that new measures had been implemented to prevent further cases occurring.
After the potential to capitalise on Jamaica’s ability to forge bilateral trade opportunities with the UK post-Brexit was discussed, fDi asked Mr Holness to clarify which sectors he would like UK investors to prioritise. Agriculture, infrastructure, tourism and housing were at the top of his list. With crime reduction, education and debt reduction being the main focus of the Jamaican government, by collaborating with UK investors, Mr Holness hopes that the expertise UK businesses have to offer will assist in the development of Jamaica’s growing workforce.