KINGSTON, Jamaica — After years of planning, the proposed logistics hub has started to make some Jamaican consumers feel more optimistic about job prospects.
One in 5 of those who expected better job prospects mentioned the e-zone and the logistics hub, according to the latest Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Conference Board survey of confidence.
What’s more, new government policies aimed at satisfying the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement boosted business confidence, “although those same policies were frequently cited as the main cause for continuing concerns about the strength of the domestic economy,” according to the report.
The consumer confidence index in the first quarter of 2014 climbed 10.7 percent over levels recorded in the last quarter of 2013, while business confidence jumped 20 percent.
Despite rapid devaluation, which is felt more immediately than the benefits of growth and job prospects, a record number of companies planned to undertake expansion over the year ahead, while consumer purchasing plans climbed to the highest level since mid-2012.
Consumers still viewed the current job market as dismal — 88 percent reported that jobs were scarce, compared with 93 percent three months before — while 57 percent expected job prospects to worsen during the year ahead.
Indeed, job prospects in tourist areas are viewed more favorable — 29 percent of tourist area residents expected job gains compared with 19 percent islandwide. But just 7 percent of Jamaicans thought the economy had started to improve with 45 percent seeing it as still weakening.
On the other hand, “remittances were reported by 38 percent of all households, and among those that received remittances, 44 percent reported receiving larger amounts in the first quarter 2014 survey, up from 34 percent in 2013 and the highest proportion to report increases since 2007,” according to the report.
Foreign exchange income for many households has certainly offset the impact of devaluation on their standard of living, but businesses saw it as their prime current concern.
Still more companies anticipated that the economy would improve rather than worsen during the year ahead — a first in two years.
Among all firms, 42 percent expected improvement, up from 29 percent three months before and just 19 percent three months before that.
“Overall, firms held the most positive outlook for renewed economic growth since the first quarter of 2012,” said the report.