PSOJ calls for role in divestment/outsourcing of state assets

PSOJ President Keith Duncan speaking at a press conference yesterday.

The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) is insistent on playing a role in the disposal or transfer of national assets to ensure transparency and to remove the hint of corruption in the divestment and outsourcing of state assets.

For many years various administrations have faced public backlash over their handling of the disposal of state assets with charges of corruption, favouritism, nepotism and cronyism.

The demand for inclusion on the disposal of government assets is part of the PSOJ’s two-year (2020-2022) strategic organisational focus for inclusive economic growth for Jamaica through advocacy and action. Speaking at a news conference at the PSOJ’s Hope Road headquarters in St. Andrew Thursday (Jan 9), PSOJ President Keith Duncan said the umbrella group’s demand has more to do with ensuring transparency rather than any concern of corruption.

Duncan argued that allowing his organisation to be part of the process would go a far way in ensuring transparency and removing the hint of corruption in the disposal of state assets. He said the PSOJ is more than willing and able to work with the government on offloading some of these assets. He said local businesses are more than willing to transform and turnaround these assets to profitability to the benefit of the country.

Duncan emphasised that passing on these assets to the private sector would free up well-needed resources, which could be channelled to much-needed areas such as crime, which he described as a disease in dire need of a cure. While acknowledging national concerns about some previous divestment of government assets, Duncan declared that the PSOJ’s demand for inclusion seeks to diminish such concerns given its focus for transparency.

He said the PSOJ is seeking to partner with the Development Bank of Jamaica and the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service around the divestment and outsourcing of GOJ assets/operations. Duncan contends that in spite of the divestment of state assets and outsourcing, which have taken place over the years, the public sector remains relatively inefficient while improving to 8.9 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Even with this marginal improvement, the PSOJ boss declared that the public sector “remains a drag on state resources”.

Duncan announced an ambitious programme aimed at stimulating investments in Jamaica. A key plank of this programme is the creation of structured forums for engaging directly with Jamaica’s largest domestic and global investors at the decision-making level on the prospects for greater immediate direct investment in Jamaica.

“With more available capital and better access to financing, we need to continue to improve the conditions that support and incentivize direct investment,” Duncan posited. He listed local infrastructure, tax and trade policy, networks and linkages as among the areas of focus to achieve this goal.

As part of the strategy, there will be a greater focus on direct investments to increase growth levels. As a result, the need for stimulating direct investments from the private sectors is imperative. This would be attained by improving the conditions for investments in areas such as specific emerging opportunities for major new investments from medium and large firms.

This would be in addition to increasing access to finance for the PSOJ’s Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs) Strategy:

Having achieved macroeconomic stability, the PSOJ boss explained that the strategic efforts will be focused on enhancing the business environment to create greater consumer and business confidence levels which should translate into increased domestic and foreign investments and as a result, greater growth levels

As it regards economic stability and growth, Duncan made the point that as Jamaica has achieved macroeconomic stability over the past seven years, the private sector must ensure that the country maintain macroeconomic stability, fiscal responsibility and continued reduction in debt levels consistent with Jamaica’s fiscal rules.

He said the PSOJ, through the Economic Programme Oversight Committee, will continue to provide oversight of Jamaica’s Economic programme. Turning to the PSOJ’s overarching objective for 2020-2022, which is ensuring Jamaica achieves inclusive growth and creating an environment that enables private sector-led investments while protecting Jamaica’s environment, Duncan expressed confidence that this objective will be met.

—Durrant Pate