by Kavon Fiennes
I am not surprised at that non-starter that the Jamaica Employ Programme has turned out to be. I have been waiting for months now for the opening line of this article, “Jobs at Snail’s Pace”, in today’s Gleaner:
“The much-heralded Jamaica Employ programme has been slow in providing jobs to Jamaicans as local businesses wilt under the pressure of a sagging economy.”
Launched in September 2012, the Jamaica Employ Programme is a private-public sector initiative aimed at creating 40,000 jobs (out of thin air I might add), as a hoped outcome of an agreement signed between the Ministry of Labour and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC). At the signing, the Prime Minister was quoted:
“…if every private sector entity was to employ at least one professionally qualified unemployed Jamaican we could put a dent in the level of unemployment in this country.”
“We could immediately reduce unemployment by 40,000 over the short term, and I am sure, as Jamaicans, we can….”
We can? How? Somehow, in the magical world that is Jamaican politics, Jamaica Employ was expected to solve our huge unemployment situation, just by signing a document. Nothing has changed in Jamaica’s overall macro-economic environment, to encourage employers to employ or for new business start ups. I dearsay, things have become worse.
CEO of the JCC Mr. Trevor Fearon has stated:
“I don’t think it has been a surprise that it (Jamaica Employ) has not taken off because the economic circumstances have been changing within the past several months, and that is going to have an impact on the job sector.”
But Jamaican politicians are magical thinkers and so, just be decree, the business community must hire to reduce unemployment. I wrote about this in a previous post, where I mentioned how I first learned of the term ‘magical thinking’ here.
The Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF) added its weight to the JCC CEO’s remarks as it too does not have any evidence to support any mass hiring in the private sector. Despite the initial enthusiasm for the Jamaica Employ Programme, by the government and its party supporters, nothing has happened. According to JEF President, Wayne Chen:
“There was a certain amount of enthusiasm, and it has been tempered by the current realisation that there will be an austerity programme going forward.”
But it seems as if Mr. Chen may be catching the magical thinking disease himself. He goes further to state:
“We have to be more enterprising and seek opportunities. Opportunities are not just jobs in established enterprises, it’s creating new things.”
How can you create new things when any future plans made are continuously being derailed by activities of the state? There are new government taxes, the spiraling devaluation of the currency and impositions of higher government fees at the port and even a $J0.40 (40 cents) plus GCT charge for making a cellphone call. How can you start a new business or hire for that matter in such an economic environment?
People may call me jaded or having no hope, or not being a positive thinker. The fact is that I am trying to be an objectivist and a realist. There was simply no way that Jamaica Employ could have worked, because the fundamental problems of the governance and economic management of Jamaica were never addressed or corrected to favour such a programme, aimed to reduce unemployment.
I must agree with my colleague Cato Rand in his piece There Comes A Time…in Jamaica, in his advocating for limited government, separation of powers and reduced taxation if Jamaica is to stand any real chance for prosperity in the future. But I must also emphasize that we also need to rid the country of magical thinking.