Report: The Economic Future of Jamaica: Life after COVID-19

As with the first two sessions in our Island Responses webinar series, ‘Islands and the COVID-19 Pandemic’ and ‘The Economic Future of the Caribbean: Life After COVID-19’ the third and final in the series,

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As with the first two sessions in our Island Responses webinar series, ‘Islands and the COVID-19 Pandemic’ and ‘The Economic Future of the Caribbean: Life After COVID-19’ the third and final in the series, ‘The Economic future of Jamaica: Life after COVID-19’ webinar, was a great success, with an excellent discussion conducted by our moderator and a range of thought-provoking questions and comments from him and our attendees regarding Jamaica’s economic future and how the country can potentially emerge stronger once the COVID-19 crisis is under control. We also invite you to continue the conversation over in our Facebook and LinkedIn groups.

Some quick statistics on the webinar: 

  • 5 expert speakers from Jamaica
  • 846 registrations
  • 478 joining live through Zoom
  • 1,000 views on Facebook (and counting!) 

From the polls we held our live attendees included:

  • 37% from private business
  • 26% from governments
  • 20% from academia/universities
  • 13% from the Non-Profit sector
  • 4% from journalism
  • 21% in Jamaica 
  • 18%  in other Caribbean (CARICOM countries) 
  • 7% in other Caribbean (Non-CARICOM countries) 
  • 17% in Europe
  • 31% in US & Canada 
  • 6% in the rest of the world

We would also encourage you to read our new policy brief co-authored with the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for Environmental Law & Governance and contribute to our survey request for data on island responses to COVID-19.

Content summary:

This final webinar in the series once again demonstrated there is a significant level of interest in this topic, not just on a global or regional scale, but also for individual countries. In his introduction to this webinar, Island Innovation Director James Ellsmoor gave a brief summary of the Island Responses webinar series so far as well as what to expect from this webinar focusing on Jamaica.

Moderator: Basil Reid – News Presenter at CVM Television

Basil Reid, our moderator for this webinar, lives and works in Jamaica as a news presenter for CVM Television a popular television station based in Kingston. With his background in presenting, he brought an engaging style in his role for this webinar, giving the feel of a professional TV broadcast, including Basil’s smart suit and the CVM TV background he had behind him. His confident, friendly and upbeat manner made the speakers feel at ease, allowing him to jump straight into his own questions about Jamaica’s social and economic, covering topics such as healthcare, tourism, employment and agriculture, as well as including questions asked during the webinar by our attendees.

MP Floyd Green – State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries

Political decisions at governmental level play a critical role in the success (or lack of) of a country’s ability to come out of a crisis, especially one as serious as the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused economic damage to Jamaica on a scale that is unprecedented in recent decades. In response to Basil Reid’s question about how Jamaica can rebound economically and how the country can hope to return to normal, he suggested that he doesn’t believe there will ever be a return to a situation the same as the pre-COVID days, but instead what is needed is a new economic model is needed which will allow the Jamaican economy and society to become stronger and more resilient. He pointed out that going forward that should be much more of an emphasis on e-commerce and the use of technology for new forms of work and business, such as fresh food delivery services. As well as this the Jamaican economy should diversify from being so focused on tourism and expand other forms of employment such as agriculture, in order to become more resilient to future crises. 

Anaitee Mills – Climate Finance Adviser 

As a Climate Finance Adviser in the Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Anaitee has worked for the Jamaican Prime Minister, drafting and shaping the Prime Minister’s high-level political statements delivered during the course of the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit. When asked during the webinar about the unique challenges that Jamaica faces, Anaitee suggested that it is important for Jamaicans to acknowledge that the country has a very high debt situation and that the COVID-19 crisis will translate into more fiscal constraints. Because of this, she said, there needs to be a much greater focus on sustainable tourism in the future in order to be able to resist coming crises. Basil Reid questioned how feasible smaller scale, sustainable tourism accommodation would be considering how many people head to Jamaica for all-inclusive resorts by the beach. To this Anaitee responded that it is important not to underestimate millennials’ appetite for more experience-driven, sustainable tourism, especially considering the huge growth in Airbnb and other small scale operations in the last decade. 

Mariame McIntosh Robinson – President and Chief Executive Officer at First Global Bank

Clearly access to reliable finances is very important for individuals, especially in a time of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, so it was insightful to hear from Mariame McIntosh Robinson who works within the Jamaican banking sector for First Global Bank, one of Jamaica’s most dynamic banks. When asked what the banking sector is doing, Mariame described how all banks have extended help during this crisis. All sectors have been impacted in the country and especially hard hit in Jamaica has been industries and sectors such as tourism, events such as sport and entertainment, restaurants and bars and agriculture. Banks came together very quickly in March though to offer assistance and there have been 10,000 new accounts opened to assist people, as access to a bank account is vital in order for people to be able to receive financial assistance, with an emphasis on flexible, nimble banking needed going into the future to help the Jamaican economy recover as quickly as possible. 

Dr Ché Bowen – Chief Executive Officer at MDLink Ltd. 

As mentioned by other speakers, to overcome a crisis as severe and far-reaching as the COVID-19 pandemic, new ways of thinking need to be put into action, such as utilising modern forms of technology. This is no different for the health care sector which Dr Ché Bowen described during his section of the webinar. Tele-medicine is definitely an area of healthcare that is likely to take off substantially due to the highly contagious risk of COVID-19. The patient can stay at home and be diagnosed safely via video link, eliminating the risk of them being infected by others if they aren’t already and also keeping the doctor safe. Of course, as with internet banking and new forms of work such as remote working, this does depend on reliable internet infrastructure. As Dr Ché described, the telecommunication network plays a vital role in the digitisation of the Jamaican economy and society. The national provider, Digicell, is currently under a lot of pressure from so many people using its service due to lockdown. Dr Ché pointed out that they either need to rise to the occasion or perhaps we need another new company to also offer telecommunication services. 

About the Author
Island Innovation

Island Innovation facilitate connections between island stakeholders and sustainable development practitioners across the globe to share knowledge and promote collaboration.  By creating a support network, we smooth the way for developing innovative solutions to drive economic performance, ensure political stability and promote good governance, which improves the social and environmental conditions within island communities.

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