With Jamaica’s growth being hampered by one of the lowest rates of productivity in the Western hemisphere, the government is implementing several projects which it says will enhance productivity in the long run.
Dr Nigel Clarke, Minister of Finance and the Public Service says the raft of public transportation, road, hospital and education projects currently underway are geared at increasing the level of efficiency of the Jamaican worker.
“Productivity is inextricably linked with economic growth…We are going to be intentionally focused on public sector investments that are productivity-enhancing,” Dr Clarke said during Mayberry Investments Limited’s virtual investor forum on Wednesday, January 18.
Productivity can be defined as a measure of how efficiently a person completes a task, or the rate at which a company or country produces goods and services (output), usually judged based on the amounts of inputs (labour, capital, energy, or other resources) used to deliver those goods and services.
Research has shown that trends in productivity levels from 2000 to 2019 have seen a decrease of 15 per cent in Jamaica, as compared to a 51 per cent increase in countries such as the Dominican Republic. Specifically, within the same period, Jamaica’s labour productivity rate has decreased on average by 0.6 per cent annually.
Citing the example of public transportation, Dr Clarke said if it takes the Jamaican workforce of 1.3 million people two hours to get to work on average, that would be 2.6 million hours spent on transportation or more than 100,000 days. He said productivity would increase significantly if this figure could be reduced.
Dr Clarke said the government would be increasing the functional capacity of the workforce through educational reforms.
“We are making investments in education to ensure that each person who leaves school is more productive than each person who left school 30 years before”, he said.
Other productivity-enhancing investments include improvements to the road network, and the construction of hospitals and health clinics to improve the overall health of the workforce, thus reducing the number of days missed from work due to illness.
Days earlier Prime Minister Andrew Holness broke ground for the construction of a new 540-bed hospital in Spanish Town for $5.5 billion. This is in addition to the Western Children and Adolescent Hospital currently under construction, as well as the problem-plagued renovation of the Cornwall Regional Hospital on which some $14 billion has been spent.
Dr Clarke recalled that the government will be investing $40 billion over two years in improving the country’s road network.