Tuesday, October 28, 2014

By Sharon Earle 

The Government is targeting an employment boom from the strengthening of linkages between agriculture and tourism.

Director of Taxation Policy in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Ian Scarlett, said that Government is looking to capitalise on the continued growth in the agriculture sector by creating ready and secured markets for agricultural products to the hospitality sector.

This, he said, is being done through the Tourism Linkages Council, which was created to bolster linkages between tourism and other sectors of the Jamaican economy, and forge new ones.

He pointed out that one of the positive spin-offs of such partnerships is the creation of more jobs, which he said, is an important pillar in Government’s Economic Reform Programme (ERP).

“To my mind (that) is where the real employment will begin to take place; not only in temporary jobs, but more permanent jobs, as the economy rolls out,” Mr. Scarlett stated.

He was addressing residents of St. Elizabeth at a town hall meeting held on Wednesday (September 24), at the new public park in Black River.

He noted that Jamaica has enjoyed four successive quarters of economic growth up to the June quarter, which is expected to continue. “The biggest driver of the economic growth is domestic agriculture… and part of that reason …is the success of …the agro-parks,” Mr Scarlett pointed out.

He underscored the importance of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) to the expansion of the Jamaican economy and urged investors, who are interested in starting new businesses or expanding existing ones, to utilise the loan facilities offered by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ).

He also pointed out that the Fiscal Incentive Act, which is part of Government’s tax reform initiatives, is levelling the playfield for small players, thereby giving MSMEs better prospects for growth and survival.

Account Executive at the DBJ, Everton McFadden, told investors that several loan instruments are available in both Jamaican and US currencies for agriculture and tourism projects.

Loans, he said, could only be sourced through DBJ-approved financial institutions including credit unions, building societies and commercial banks.

The town hall meetings are aimed at increasing the level of public awareness of the ERP and the availability of investment capital to MSMEs and individual investors through the DBJ and DBJ-approved financial institutions.

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