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Jamaica’s competitiveness improves

NATASHA BECKLES, [email protected]

Jamaica’s competitiveness improves

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JAMAICA has moved up eight places on the Global Competitiveness Index and is now ranked 86 out of 144 countries for 2014/15.

The country was ranked 94 out of 148 countries in the 2013 to 2014 report and 97 out of 144 the previous year.

The report, which was released Tuesday by the World Economic Forum, assesses the competitiveness landscape of 144 economies, providing insight into the drivers of productivity and prosperity.

Switzerland, Singapore and the United States sit in the top three positions. Barbados at 55th is the best ranked country in the region, followed by Jamaica.

Economist and university lecturer Dr Andre Haughton, in an interview with JIS News, said the movement was a very significant improvement and comes as a result of the gains being made through the country’s economic reform programme under the Extended Fund Facility with the International Monetary Fund.

He added that this was evident in Government’s efforts to remain fiscally disciplined with the overall IMF programme. “So, it is as a result of us making an effort to get more competitive, and it is a very significant improvement,” Dr Haughton said.

The report defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country.

The Global Competitiveness Index is captured under 12 pillars — institutions, infrastructure, macro-economic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation.

At the same time, Industry Minister Anthony Hylton has welcomed the news of Jamaica’s positive movement of eight places up the Global Competitiveness Rankings.

Minister Hylton yesterday cited the work of the National Competitiveness Council, which he chairs, as being central to the focused efforts of the ministry and the Government to reverse Jamaica’s slide in one of the most important indices of global business competitiveness produced by the World Economic Forum.

“Despite tough economic conditions, our significant move up the Global Competitiveness Rankings points to the progress we are making, both in the public and private sectors to improve the environment for business in Jamaica,” said Minister Hylton.

Jamaica’s best performance was in the area of financial market development, attaining a rank of 48 out of 144 countries, a factor that speaks to the availability of financial services and ease of access to loans as well as other financial related variables that influence business.

Hylton said this was one of the areas of focus for the National Competitiveness Council in the Business Environment Reform Agenda (BERA), which he described as essential to Jamaica’s drive to create a logistics-centred economy.

“In this area of financial market development, validation by the global business community is a significant achievement for the country, which continues to put us significantly ahead of our key regional counterparts, chief of which are the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago,” added Hylton.

The index also highlighted other significant areas of improvement for Jamaica such as in innovation, where the country moved up the rankings from 83 to 75; mobile broadband subscription, moving from 114 to 69 and in the macro-economic segment of Government budget balance, where Jamaica jumped from 96 to 21.

Jamaica’s next best performance was in the area of labour market efficiency, which includes cooperation in labour-employee relations, hiring and firing practices, the country’s capacity to retain and attract talent and the ratio of women to men in the labour force, among other factors that affect the labour market efficiency.

JAMPRO, which is the secretariat for the National Competitiveness Council, cited these factors as key to attracting investments to Jamaica.

Diane Edwards, JAMPRO’s president, noted that this has worked in the country’s favour for landing tourism and business process outsourcing (BPO) investments in terms of income generation and employment.

“This year, foreign direct investments into Jamaica increased exponentially over the previous five years since the onset of the global economic recession in 2008 to reach a high of US$576 million. These investments were in capital infrastructure as well as tourism and BPO. This increase in global competitiveness will serve to further improve Jamaica’s standing on the international market and will hopefully make our work at JAMPRO a little smoother in landing more of these investments,” said Edwards. (Jamaica Observer)