Prime Minister Andrew Holness says that while the COVID-19 pandemic has created some severe economic challenges for Jamaica, there are some surprisingly strong indicators that bode well for the future.
Holness, who was speaking at the handing over of a one bedroom house to an elderly person in Bogue District, St Elizabeth yesterday, said that both cement and petrol are showing an uptick in demand, and also great signs that the construction industry is ticking and people are going back to work.
“We are in a recession right now, we are indeed in an economic downturn. People have not started to truly feel it as yet, but if we take our eyes off that, then it could get even worse and so we are making sure that doesn’t happen,” the prime minister said.
Holness said that the demand for cement is a good indicator of what is happening in the economy.
“What it means is that the construction sector has taken on our moral appeal that we should not pull back, as now is the time to push forward,” he added.
Holness said a similar situation is happening in the petroleum sector, where indications are that there has also been a surge in demand for petrol.
“This means that people are going back to work and production is happening. We are watching these figures very carefully and as best as possible, we are going to ensure that there are no second and third order effects from the initial fallout from COVID-19,” he emphasised.
The prime minister, in the meantime, is urging investors to capitalise on the current business opportunities, pointing to what he calls “the lowest interest rates ever and the avenues created by Government to facilitate an investor friendly climate.”
“The role of Government is to facilitate and create an enabling environment for the private sector to invest,” Holness argued.
“This administration has created the ideal climate with the lowest interest rate, while the inflation rate and access to credit are at the best they have been in 40 years,” he added.
Holness said that the fallout from COVID-19 has forced a shift in priorities, where the main focus now has to do with economic recovery.
“My mind right now is focused mainly on stabilising the economy. There are some economic realities that I as the prime minister cannot take my eyes off. I am trying my best to make sure that there are no slip-ups in that regard,” Holness said.