Jamaican Economy Panel Rounds Up A Year of Adding Value to Economic Conversation
21 December 2022
The JEP is a product of the UN Resident Coordinator's Office (UNRCO) valued partnership with the Economics Department of The University of the West Indies.
The Jamaican Economy Panel (JEP) has become a cornerstone upon which socio-economic issues can be sounded, reasoned, and rationalised – with a particular ear for a general population audience. The opinions shared have enriched understanding of the development space that the family of UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes occupy or can indeed step into as the United Nations works to support economic transformation and resilience building for Jamaica.
Over the last year, the JEP has covered a wide range of themes, from the Looming Obesity Crisis, Food Systems and Climate Change, Climate Risks for Jamaica and the Impact on Women, Climate and Disaster Preparation, Stigma, Discrimination, and Violence against Vulnerable and Marginalised Groups in Jamaica, Ocean Economy, Climate Resilience to lastly, the Creative Economy. This December issue takes stock of the critical points flagged by our Panel and the recommendations raised
Jamaica's Looming Obesity Crisis:
This survey highlighted that Jamaica must tackle obesity through comprehensive policy in all contexts. Panellists agreed that addressing obesity through public policy is needed. Although tax policy is generally one of the most convenient go-tos for affecting people's behaviours, tax on unhealthy behaviours is likely to be highly regressive. Therefore, panellists felt that using public funds to provide a more balanced (and locally sourced) diet in schools can affect behavioural change without the negative impact of regressive taxation.
Food Systems and Climate Change:
JEP panellists felt that even though global food systems are a critical part of everyday life, they receive minimal attention. In Jamaica, the agricultural sector is responsible for 16% of employment and provides substantial earnings through exports. Most importantly, the agricultural sector provides the food we all eat daily. Nevertheless, the Jamaican agricultural industry faces some considerable challenges, especially related to its low level of productivity. More significant investment in technology and skills and the pursuit of economies of scale would help increase the sector's level of productivity. This recommendation is critical in light of climate change, which has already started affecting agricultural output in the country, mainly through the deterioration of infrastructure. In the future, the panellists agreed that providing more support to farmers to improve their agricultural management skills further and teach them to consider the changing climate is crucial. Improving access to finance for farmers will support those who want to invest in upgrading technology and infrastructure, thus increasing the sectors' climate resilience.
Climate Risks for Jamaica and the Impact on Women:
Many respondents felt that women and girls are affected differently by the risks of climate change. This view could be because many Jamaican women find themselves in entrenched positions such as single parents, heads of households, low-income jobs, or household and community responsibilities. To guarantee that women and girls are better included in developing strategies to reduce the impact of climate change, panellists agreed that giving them a seat at the table was the most vital tool. This move would ultimately ensure that Jamaica approaches its disaster responses with an appropriate gender lens.
Climate and Disaster Preparation:
The panellists for this JEP felt a need to access more financing to invest in climate adaptation, especially concerning coastal defences and water storage. They highlighted that opportunities exist worldwide to attract such investments through private and public funds. Furthermore, the panellists had mixed perceptions about different segments of Jamaican society's preparedness for a potential hurricane. Their views can be attributed to the lucky streak the country has enjoyed with no significant impacts in almost a decade. Nevertheless, Jamaicans must prepare for acute disasters. The panellists saw the Government's initiative to establish a catastrophe bond as a good step toward preparing for the potential financial impact of a hurricane. However, the panellists indicated that a larger bond size and additional instruments to mitigate risk might be desirable.
Stigma, Discrimination, and Violence against Vulnerable and Marginalised Groups in Jamaica:
The JEP felt that Jamaica had made progress in this area, however, Jamaica must double its efforts to tackle the structural drivers of exclusion. They endorsed protective legislation, stronger political will, effective human rights programming and monitoring, and the improved capacity of public and private sector organisations to promote, respond and treat human rights issues.
Jamaica is a party to several treaties and resolutions relating to human rights, which obligate the Government to protect and promote the rights of all persons without distinction. However, continued work is needed to improve the human rights situation for vulnerable and marginalised groups. Panellists highlighted that additional and accelerated efforts are needed in Jamaica to address stigma and discrimination. Such measures will ensure that everyone, regardless of their group, can live peacefully with dignity and rights and participate fully in governance, cultural life and the economy while achieving their fullest potential.