He told nearly 350 participants at a National Economic Growth Forum they must not take for granted the many successes achieved since Independence in 1983, particularly during the very challenging period just before and after the closure of the sugar industry in 2005.
“An average growth rate of 4.8% over the period 2004 to 2008 is commendable performance for our country by any measurement, considering that this period includes the years immediately after the closure of the sugar industry,” said Minister Skerritt, pointing out that some pundits had predicted the collapse of the economy.
He said while the Federal Government’s fiscal challenges of 2009 and 2010 have been cause for great concern, they are definitely not signs of a collapsing economy and the social stress resulting from the past two years of economic slowdown must instead be used as a powerful indicator of the need to usher in a greater sense of national urgency to focus on the requirements for returning speedily to an upward movement on the economic growth curve.
Skerritt warned that one thing that is likely to be different going forward in the short term is Government’s ability to lead in the creation of jobs and incomes through heavy capital spending and public sector expansion.
“The fiscal fall out of the past two years simply means that Government will have to cut back on its past high levels of employment and capital investment, and that our country will have to look more to our private sector to take a stronger leadership role in investment.”
He listed the Federal Government’s Actual Capital Investment for the period 2004-2010 as follows: 2004 (EC$73.6 million); 2005 (EC$68.8 million); 2006 (EC$83.9 million); 2007 (EC$56.2 million); 2008 (EC$65.1 million); 2009 (EC$66.1 million) and 2010 (EC$94.7 million).
“Government has therefore invested more than half a billion dollars in the past seven years, at an average of $73 million per year, on capital projects. The average for the past two years was $80 Million. This is unlikely to be sustained in the short term,” said Minister Skerritt.
Projects included reconstruction of the J.N. France General Hospital, reconstruction of Pogson Hospital, the Solid Waste Management Project, the Drinking Water Project, the Improvement to Police Stations, the Electricity Supply Improvement Project, Hurricane Lenny Natural Disaster Rehabilitation Emergency Recovery and Disaster Management Project; Fisheries Complexes, several Housing Development and Infrastructure, road expansion, road maintenance, the Basic Education Project, Secondary Education Project, Construction of Warner Park and Silver Jubilee Sports stadiums and the Y.E.S. Programme.