January 19, 2016

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness lauded the contribution of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) to national development and the growth of the financial sector in his address on Tuesday at the JSE’s Conference in downtown Kingston.  Mr. Holness commended the board and management of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, not only for successfully staging the conference annually, but also its sterling work over the years which saw the JSE being recognized as the top performing index worldwide for 2015.  Mr. Holness hailed the achievement as an unmistakable signal of the tremendous economic potential that exists in Jamaica.
In emphasizing the need to leverage the Jamaica Stock Exchange as a critical pathway to growth and job creation, the Opposition Leader told the Conference that: “The aggregation of equity for investment in productive enterprise is a critical pathway to growth, particularly so, when the financing environment is such that there is a preference towards consumer loans over productive loans. The success story of the Junior Stock Exchange is a perfect example of how stock markets support both growth and job creation.  Since its establishment in 2009 under a Jamaica Labour Party administration,billions of dollars of equity capital have been channeled to entrepreneurs from investors.”
Amid the row surrounding the PNP administration’s plan to discontinue incentives under the Junior Stock Exchange, Mr. Holness said: “One of the first actions that I will take as the next Prime Minister of Jamaica is to restore all the incentives and facilitations to entrepreneurial investors through the Junior Exchange [which has been taken away by the current government].  I commit to you today that there will be no equivocal discussions, no committees set up to restudy if the incentive should be restored, no long talking – we will just do it!”
The Opposition Leader went on to highlight a most important feature of stock exchanges in saying: “Public listing forces a higher level of transparency and efficiency in enterprise operations. We all agree that the public purse would benefit significantly if state owned enterprises were more transparent in their decision and efficient in their operations. We know that not all public sector enterprises would qualify for privatization through public listing on a stock market, but there are several candidates which are worth examining. Last year we suggested the NWC as an example and we have been studying other candidates like the Urban Develop Corporation. There is no question that greater innovation, entrepreneurship, and efficiency would result, if the board and management if these state owned enterprises were accountable to shareholders rather than ministers. We intend to use the Jamaica Stock Exchange to bring transparency, efficiency and profitability to some poorly performing sectors of Government activities that probably should not be owned and operated by the government anyway.”
Mr. Holness used the opportunity to draw sharp distinctions between how government operates at present and how a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration led by him will function.  He said: “Aside from bringing entrepreneurship and efficiency to state own enterprises through listing on the stock exchange, the Jamaica Labour Party will undertake a “missioning exercise” of all ministries, state enterprises and agencies. We will start with the executive structure of government. Every minister in my government will be given a consequential two and half year job letter, setting out their key performance targets, as drawn from our Manifesto towards economic growth and job creation, for which they will be held to account. Additionally, immediately upon appointment they will be given their targets of low hanging, easily attainable changes they must make within the first 90 days of our new government. This will set the cascading example throughout government.”  
“More importantly, we have started the exercise of ensuring that every Ministry of Government is aligned and fit for the purpose of supporting the growth and job creation mission. To this end we will create a Ministry of Economic Growth and Employment.  It will incorporate elements of existing ministries such as Industry and Commerce, Labour, and Finance and Planning.  To be clear, it is not our intention to expand government, rather it is our intention to create a more aligned, agile, entrepreneurial, robust, service and task oriented government.  We are serious about growth and job creation and every elected, appointed or employed agent of government must understand the mission and that we are serious about it.”  
Holness continued: “We believe that government’s role is to facilitate traffic on the pathway to growth and job creation. We believe the role of government is to turn the pathway into a highway to growth and job creation. The first step in doing this is to ensure that government driven enterprises are not slowing or impeding traffic on the highway.  The Jamaica Labour Party will get government out of your way. It is an unfortunate truth that government bureaucracy can be a significant constraint on growth. It is not just the existence of a huge, dense and self-serving bureaucracy, which places value on the form rather than the function, which takes long to make decisions, and which is not incentivized to serve.”

Please see link to audio and photographs below: