2016 to Provide Momentum for Growth in 2017 – Joe Issa

St. Ann’s Chamber of Commerce Past President Advisory Committee member Joe Issa has tipped the economic growth momentum experienced in 2016 to continue into 2017.

Joey 6

“This year I expect higher growth in the economy than what we experienced last year when some of the policy measures implemented earlier in the year showed good results towards the end.

“2016 finished on a high note which will reverberate throughout this year to provide the momentum needed for improved performance…it’s what can be called the piggy-back effect…success feeding on success to achieve even greater success,” Issa posits in an interview on the outlook for Jamaica in 2017.

Noting he had seen the latest growth figures Issa says, “I am encouraged by the stats and more so when disaggregated as all sectors seemed to have pulled their weight…it all adds up and tells a story of increased output, consumer confidence and employment…the prime minister has been personally pushing the BPO sector so we may well be seeing the impact in the numbers.”

According to tradingeconomics.com Domestic Product (GDP) figures show that the economy of Jamaica had grown 2 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2016, the highest since the second quarter of 2014. The outturn for the September 2016 quarter was also higher than the 1.4 percent recorded in the second quarter.

The 2016 third quarter statistics also show that both goods and services played a part, which analysts say is the best structure within which to grow the economy.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing which has benefitted from a renewed focus on import substitution and greater linkages with the tourism sector improved from a growth rate of 9.4 percent in the second quarter to 29.1 percent in the third quarter.

Mining and quarrying also responded with the growth of 2 percent in the third quarter from -1.9 percent in the second, while manufacturing was up 0.1 percent from 0.6 percent in the second quarter.

Increases were also said to have been recorded for electricity and water supply which grew by 2.5 percent in the third quarter compared with 5 percent in the second quarter.

Hotels and restaurants grew from 1.3 percent in the second quarter to 2.2 percent in the third. Transport recorded growth of 0.5 percent compared with 0.7 percent in second quarter.

Further comparison shows that the GDP outturn in the September 2016 quarter was much higher than the 0.14 percent average recorded from 2003 to 2016. A record high of 2.2 percent was recorded in the fourth quarter of 2003, and a record low of -2.10 percent was posted in the third quarter of 2014.

Dr Wayne Henry 1
Dr Wayne Henry

Dr Wayne Henry, director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), agrees with Issa, not only on the strength of the growth experienced in the third quarter of 2016 but also what it means for the country.

Stating that the pace of growth represented the most reliable estimate since April-June 2007, Dr Henry said at a PIOJ quarterly press briefing that “overall, the projected out-turn largely reflects the positive impact of higher levels of business and consumer confidence and increased employment levels with supported increased demand.”

“This was also reflected in increased construction activities with the building of new, and refurbishment of existing hotel rooms, the build out of office space to facilitate the expansion of the business process outsourcing industry, and road rehabilitation and expansion work,” the Gleaner quoted Dr Henry as saying.


Ensuring Continuity of Personal, Business Communication for Next Quarter Century Responsible, Reassuring – Joe Issa

Executive Chairman of Cool Corporation Joe Issa has described as responsible and reassuring the move by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to secure Jamaica’s number available for the next 25 years.

“It is a responsible move on the part of the OUR, to ensure that sufficient telephone numbers are available to satisfy the needs of individuals and businesses for the next 25 years.

“It is also reassuring for people and the business community, regarding their long-term growth plans, as it could be quite disconcerting not knowing what will happen when we use up the 876 quotas of telephone numbers.

“Now that we are assured that enough numbers are available to accommodate planned expansions over the long term, this will act as a big incentive for businesses to implement present plans for long-term growth and that of the economy.

“The move could also make Jamaica more attractive to foreign investments which have a high demand for telephone numbers, such as the emerging BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry,” said Issa.

Issa was commenting on the announcement by the OUR, that Jamaica now has another area code – 658 – in addition to the existing 876 and that the new code, which takes effect on May 31, 2018, mandates ten-digit dialling – the 3-digit code plus the 7-digit number – for all local calls.

OUR explained, however, that there will be an adjustment period – the permissive dialling period – lasting at least five months, during which a recording will remind clients to dial the current 3-digit code if they forget and dial only the 7-digit number. After the permissive dialling period is ended, all local calls will require ten-digit dialling to be completed.

The new code is to be used in addition to, and not as a replacement for, the existing 876 area code; and the introduction of ten-digit dialling will not increase telephone charges, nor require current telephone numbers to be changed.

However, clients, especially businesses and government agencies are being encouraged to start adding the current 876 area code on all their printed materials and signage.

Users of alarm services and solutions with automatic diallers, and operators of PBX systems are also advised “to contact their respective service providers to ensure that their systems will be compatible with the new numbering and dialling arrangements,” OUR said.

“It became necessary for Jamaica to get an additional Numbering Plan Area (NPA) code…to ensure that there are sufficient numbers available to satisfy growth in demand for these resources over the next 25 years,” the agency was quoted explaining.

Under the Telecommunications Act, the OURis fully responsible for the allocation, assignment (to service providers) and usage of telecommunication numbers in Jamaica.

Joe Issa Welcomes Dawn of New Era of Non- Harassment of Visitors

After much sensitisation of stakeholders, visitor harassment in resort areas is said to be declining, an era longed-for by one of Jamaica’s most passionate tourism advocates Joe Issa.

“I have always longed for the day when tourists can walk the streets especially in resort areas without being harassed, can drink coconut and talk to vendors, can enter our craft markets and boutiques, and can buy what they want when they want without being posted to open their wallets and purses.

“No one deserves to be harassed; it is a frightening experience even for us as locals let alone visitors. The downside of this is they may immediately return to the comfort of their hotel, and we would have lost on that spend. An even bigger problem is they may not return and discourage others from coming to Jamaica.

“Unlike any other business, tourism is our business, whether or not we participate in it and at whatever level because our collective responsibility – which is considered our most critical role – is to be friendly to our visitors, which proudly is largely the case.

“The few who try to spoil our tourism product – which is underpinned by our friendliness – must reconcile their critical role in the survival and expansion of tourism in Jamaica, on which so many people depend, including, quite likely, their relatives.

“But it is refreshing that the minister’s measures are working. He has initiated a sensitisation programme to include even judges, which I thought was a pretty good idea since they are the ones who hear cases of harassment in their courts and dispense justice,” said Issa, member of the St Ann Chamber of Commerce Past Presidents Advisory Committee.

Issa was responding to JIS News that anti-visitor harassment measures being implemented in resort areas are bearing fruit, quoting Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.

Bartlett reportedly gave credit to the training programmes and sensitisation workshops for frontline industry representatives interacting directly with visitors; and heightened vigilance and patrols by resort security officers.

Bartlett was cited saying that the positive outcomes are evidenced in Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) visitor opinion surveys which show that 60 percent of the tourists visiting Jamaica recently were satisfied with their experience.

“Also noteworthy is the fact that 42 percent of our visitors are repeat guests. Our intention is for those numbers to be even higher as the visit should resonate so well with those who land on our soil, that they will unhesitatingly and consistently give us an A+ rating,” he was quoted as saying.

The anti-visitor harassment measures are enabling guests to move around more freely, which contributed to Jamaica being recently voted the number one Caribbean destination and among the top 20 globally, by the highly respected American travel and restaurant website company, TripAdvisor, Inc., a feat on which Issa commented recently.

These developments are welcomed news for the Administration, in light of industry stakeholders’ concerns that unless visitor harassment is decisively addressed, it could potentially erode brand Jamaica’s reputation as a highly sought-after destination of choice for tourists, and overshadow the sector’s record visitor arrivals and foreign exchange earnings, said JIS News.

It said while acknowledging the favourable outturns emanating from the interventions; sector interests also urge that these be sustained, and others introduced, to avoid the onset of complacency that could give rise to the resurgence in the prevalence of visitor harassment.


Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Family


It is a point which Prime Minister Andrew Holness, reportedly emphasised while speaking with stakeholders during a recent tour of Falmouth, Trelawny.

“A guest who does not feel pressure is more likely to spend and interact. That guest is also more likely to come back with his or her family for a longer stay, which is a win-win (situation) for all of us,” he was quoted as arguing.

It cited him further emphasising the importance of training, noting that those who interact daily with visitors should be cognizant that “what we deem as normal” is not necessarily something that visitors are comfortable with.

Training and certification are being facilitated by the Government through the newly established Jamaica Centre of Tourism.

Additionally, the Falmouth Tour Guide Programme reportedly provides training designed to equip persons, deemed simple guides, with the skills and inputs that reposition them as official industry ambassadors.

“It all boils down to the knowledge that the guest must at all times feel free to walk the streets without feeling pressured to buy anything. A happy guest will always be willing to spend and, most importantly, will go back and spread the good word (about their experience),” Holness was quoted as saying.

Joe Issa Supports Marshall Plan for Caribbean Territories

Mere days following concern expressed by local businessman Joe Issa about rising unemployment in the Caribbean, within the context of the region’s physical vulnerability and an institutional barrier to aid, Sir Richard Branson has echoed the same sentiments.

The head of British-based Virgin Group Sir Richard has reportedly advocated for a Marshall Plan for the Caribbean, similar to the aid package the US provided to rebuild Western Europe after World War II.

Caribbean governments are said to have been calling on international organisations, multilateral development banks, and developed countries for years, to formulate a significant economic package of aid and debt relief.

However, alas, according to a Jamaica Observer article titled, “Why Sir Richard Branson is Right on the Money”, the international community may listen given the recent battering which the Caribbean countries received from hurricanes, noting that Sir Richard’s timing demonstrated his political acumen.

For his part, Issa, whose Cool Group strategy has been likened to that of Branson’s Virgin Group, has on more than one occasion argued against using per capita income – as aid donors do – to disqualify Caribbean nations from receiving much-needed assistance.

Issa said, “The reality is that Caribbean countries are battered every year by hurricanes and need vast sums to rebuild. Some are known to have been hit more than once during the annual hurricane season.”

More recently, in an article titled “‘Remove the Impediment’: Joe Issa Supports Case for Vulnerable Caribbean States to Access Concessionary Loans”, Issa supported a move for the reconsideration of the income per capita criterion established long ago which disqualifies Caribbean states for concessionary funding to support their annually-battered economies.

Issa argued that “it is not fair for Caribbean states to be denied access to soft money because of their supposedly middle to the high-income status which, in any case, reverses every year after the battering by hurricanes.”

He explained that due to their high per capita incomes, countries like Antigua & Barbuda and Dominica, which were ravaged by Category 3 hurricanes, have advanced or graduated from the low income Least Developed Country (LDC) designation to Upper Middle Income.

Issa was at the time supporting United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’call for special consideration to be made for mid to high-income vulnerable states that have been “deprived” of concessional loans, following his visit to hurricane-battered countries, leaving trails of death and destruction estimated at billions of dollar.

“The fact is that even though these countries have graduated as middle-income countries, they have some vulnerabilities that need to be taken into account if we want them to be sustainable as middle-income countries,” Guterres reportedly said.

In an effort to promote and sustain economic growth, Caribbean governments are said to have pursued fiscal policies, which have contributed to a build-up of external debt.

Caribbean countries are now believed to be the most indebted countries in the world, with some, like Jamaica, having a Debt/GDP ratio of over 100 percent, which is way above the maximum 75 percent recommended, if sustainable economic growth is to be resumed, the article said.

It noted that the situation is now “at a point where a significant policy initiative has to be mounted to reduce the debt significantly, this would ease the liquidity constraints, solvency risk, and allow governments to increase public investment in infrastructure, education and health.

“The debt burden has to be reduced by strategy combining (a) restructuring of multilateral debt; (b) reduction of bilateral debt by debt swaps for climate mitigation, environment, education and cancellation; and (c) conversion of commercial debt into multilateral debt.”

It argued that “the Caribbean, without doubt, needs a Marshall Plan to build resilience and lay the basis for sustainable economic growth,” suggesting that the United States, which is the region’s primary trading partner, must have a hand in it.

According to Wikipedia, “the Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was an American initiative to aid Western Europe.  In which the United States gave over $13 billion (approximately $132 billion in current dollar value as of October 2017) in economic support to help rebuild Western European economies after the end of World War II.

“The plan was in operation for four years beginning on April 8, 1948. The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernise industry, make Europe prosperous once more, and prevent the spread of communism.

“The Marshall Plan required a lessening of interstate barriers, a dropping of many regulations, and encouraged an increase in productivitylabour union membership, as well as the adoption of modern business procedures.”