Mon | Aug 10, 2020

Economic Growth Council under scrutiny

Published:Friday | July 3, 2020 | 12:13 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Hill
Hill

Parliament Public Adminis-tration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) had difficulty on Wednesday in identifying the role of the Michael Lee-Chin-chaired Economic Growth Council (EGC) as it probed the reasons behind the low out-turn of growth since its establishment.

The Executive Director of the council, Aubyn Hill, told the committee on Tuesday that the council was not in charge of implementing the measures for growth.

“The Economic Growth Council is not responsible for growth target because we don’t have a ministry. We were told, you are not a ministry or an agency,” Hill, who is also deputy president of the Senate, said.

The council was set up in April 2016 to advise the Government on a framework of proposed initiatives, along with sub-initiatives that are expected to yield economic growth.

In 2018, the economy grew by 1.9 per cent and in 2019 by one per cent.

“We are trying to find out what’s wrong. There is an issue. The truth of the matter is, this is what your council is sort of pegged [to]. So, what we are trying to do is find out why we are not achieving the targets,” PAAC Chairman Wykeham McNeill stated as he pushed for answers from Hill.

But Hill maintained that the EGC is not the body responsible for producing growth, pointing to the few staff members that accompanied him to the Parliament

FIVE-IN-FOUR GROWTH TARGET

“So, what do you do?” McNeill further questioned.

Committee member Fitz Jackson questioned whether there was any plan in place to achieve the five-in-four growth target and other projections made by the council as objectives for growth.

“Did the Economic Growth Council identify a work plan? Did the Government and prime minister sign off on that work plan?” Jackson questioned.

Hill, in responding, said the council has had a total of 488 meetings with 136 stakeholders as he asserted that the five-in-four target was not arbitrarily thrown out in public, but at the same time conceded it was an aspirational target.

“We are a facilitating body, we cannot instruct … we facilitate, we enable, we encourage, we push,” Hill said.

“The plan wasn’t some esoteric plan. The plan was to achieve five-in-four. I never heard in 2016 that five-in-four was aspirational. I heard that this was the target. It was midway down the road when the achievement of it became an obviously fleeting illusion that it somehow got translated by the prime minister into an aspirational target.

“The prime minister has a disposition to just twist things sometimes, so the real target became aspirational,” Jackson countered.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com