The Conference Board of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce has recently released its Quarterly Survey of Business and Consumer Confidence, and they must be congratulated for sustaining that momentum for so many years. That in itself is a remarkable achievement and a demonstration of the consistency in business that seems to escape a high percentage of firms and individuals. The findings as published indicate a strong anticipation of a good year in business profitability, investment in plant and machinery, and the outlook is said to be the highest in recent years.
What would have generated that positive outlook? Was it the completion of 2015 and the passing of the IMF tests? Was it the anticipation of the long awaited general elections? Was it the anticipation of a change of government, or conversely, a return of government? Was it a perception of a reduction in crime? Was it a view that the exchange rate would remain stable in the medium term?
I am not certain as to the factors behind the optimism, but the methodology and the collection of date is consistent and I have no challenge with that. However where does perception become reality, and where is it measured?
For firms on the Jamaica Stock Exchange the proof of profitability and expansion will be found in the Audited Accounts due by March 30, 2017, and a slightly longer period for companies not listed. So for the time being the relationship between opinion and fact are still awaiting the outcomes.
Where reality needs to hit the road is squarely in the hands of the private sector. For one, the quarterly optimism must be registered as measurable growth in GDP, employment, exports (volumes and dollars), agricultural output, stop over tourism arrivals, disembarkation numbers from cruise shipping, and other services in banking and ICT.
How does optimism play out for growth when exports have been declining? The expanded Panama Canal will be officially opened in mid-May carrying increased tonnages in-bound to us, but what about outbound?
The responsibility for growth rest firmly in the hands of the private sector, but we have no reliable or timely measurements of their performance, leaving a large timeframe for excuses for poor performance. We must repeat: whose responsibility is it? We cannot allow expectations to cloud the need to take decisions and implement strategies.
We are confident that Dr. Usain Bolt will win three gold medals in Brazil later this year. This is probably a widespread view and hope. However if we saw that he was not training would we be willing to bet our house and car on the outcome? So there is a difference between expressing confidence and taking appropriate action.
The question is therefore obvious. Whose responsibility is it to turn optimism into achievement? The answer is in your hands.