Jamaica's current economic difficulties, highlighted by the unsettled state of public sector wage negotiations and the impact of drought and bush fires on agricultural production were some of the issues discussed on RJR's That's a Rap, RJR's weekly news review show, on Sunday.
Dr. Andre Haughton, lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the West Indies, attorney at law Alecia Johns, PhD, and Reverend Marjorie Lewis, PhD, discussed these concerns with host Earl Moxam.
"These negative externalities that we've been encountering over the past couple of years really have been having a negative impact on growth in output, especially farming," Dr. Haugton observed.
Against that background, he said the drought of 2014, "should have indicated to us that we definitely needed to put infrastructure in place to help our farming sector, going forward."
Regarding the current spate of fires affecting coffee and other crops in East Rural St. Andrew and parts of St. Thomas, he said crop insurance should have been in place to guard against eventualities such as these.
"When I look at commodities in general... in this globalized atmosphere, insurance really should be playing its part in helping the farmers to recover their losses."
Reverend Lewis questioned "how we accumulate the capital to get the growth agenda going," given the historical economic and social disadvantages that have bedeviled the the country over the years.
In response, Dr. Haughton asserted that Jamaica does "have what is necessary to move us forward as a country." Highlighting the "mismanagement" of public spending and grant funding receipts "over the last 20 years," he asserted that "if we really wanted to see certain basic things improved, then we could see it improved.
He highlighted prospects for irrigation schemes in the country's farming heatland of St. Elizabeth, as one example of "very simple infrastructure platforms that agriculture requires."
Alecia Johns worried aloud about the dimished prospects for some of her contemporaries who, "looking at the dollars and cents... looking at the bank book... what it means to go to the supermarket to fill your grocery basket, and it's really just not feasible for a lot of young professionals, particularly those with student loans."
In the face of such odds, she concluded that the risk of them migrating "is definitely going to increase."
Injecting a note of optimism into the discussion, Haughton stressed that the "bad culture" of failing to organize properly for success can change.
"With one action you earn five dollars. If they can realise that with a more prudent behavior they can earn ten dollars then we will start doing the thing the way it is supposed to be done," he argued.
With the present "back against the wall" position of the country, he asserted that there "has to be change!"
The audio excerpt from the show starts with Dr. Haugton commenting on the setbacks to agriculture.