The opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has urged Jamaicans to brace for likely economy shrinkage due to the most-recent growth statistics as well as the adverse effects the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has put on global markets.
In a statement, the PNP alluded to data from the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ)—which indicated a less-than-impressive growth rate of 0.1 per cent in the Jamaican economy for the final quarter of 2019.
Considering the sluggish growth, the PIOJ further reduced its projection for the 2019/20 fiscal year to 0.6 per cent.
“With growth having ground to a virtual halt in the second half of 2019, and the impact of the coronavirus now looming, the Jamaican economy could well be headed into a period of economic contraction,” the party said.
For his part, Shadow Minister of Finance and Planning Mark Golding pointed out that the country and several key industries were at risk.
“Key sectors of the economy are already in negative territory, with the construction sector shrinking by two per cent in the fourth quarter of 2019, and bauxite/alumina in a deep tailspin with the closure of Jisco/Alpart,” Golding argued.
“Bauxite/alumina faces waning demand from the dislocation in China, tourism is vulnerable due to vacationers’ reluctance to risk international travel, and manufacturing is exposed to serious disruption in the international supply chain and much higher prices for alternative sources,” he noted further.
According to him, the COVID-19 outbreak is already affecting the island, as logistics activity at the Port of Kingston has seen a sharp reduction, with port workers being told to take a pay cut or face layoffs.
“It cannot be business as usual. It is clear the economy has been slowing, and serious challenges lie ahead. The Government needs to level with the people and indicate what measures will be pursued to mitigate the adverse impact of this economic storm on ordinary Jamaicans. The Opposition stands ready to join in a national response to the looming crisis, but the Government must lead and not bury its head in the sand as events unfold,” Golding said.