Export ganja and earn foreign exchange
The sliding value of the Jamaican dollar has been one of the hot topics of discussion in recent weeks. At the close of trading on Thursday, it took an average of J$142 to purchase US$1, slipping from about J$125 to US$1 just a few weeks ago.
The demand for the US dollar is usually high at this time of year, with Christmas coming up, coupled with big payouts on investment instruments, along with some hoarding and speculation. However, the bigger challenge facing Jamaica is that the only way to meet the growing demand for the US dollar is to earn more and perhaps import less.
According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), so far this year we have spent just over a US$1 billion importing minerals and fuel, another US$1 billion on machinery and equipment, over US$600 million on food, another US$600 million on manufactured goods, and a further US$400 million on chemicals. That is about US$4 billion.
On the other hand, our exports amount to just under US$1 billion. Do you see the imbalance?
Yes, we do have money coming in from remittances and we do need to retain more of the dollars spent on the tourism industry, but for Jamaica to control the slide, or more accurately, the fluctuation in the value of the Jamaican dollar, we have to do more to improve the volume of products that we export from this country.
The developing marijuana industry is one possible way of significantly improving our exports. Medicinal marijuana is already a billion-dollar industry and we need to be more aggressive in our approach so that we can benefit from a nice share of that market.
However, we tend to drag our feet on these things as if we are afraid of our own potential.
There is also a lot more we can do in terms of our spices and agricultural products. Yes, I am very aware of the challenges potential exporters face, but the Government needs to move with greater speed and creativity that will give encouragement to those people wanting to sell products abroad.
Sometimes I feel that the authorities are too timid, or too reluctant, to encourage Jamaicans to take advantage of our ingenuity. This needs to change.
In the meantime, we should take steps to reduce some imports. When I go shopping I see tons of imported products that are produced right here in Jamaica. That, for me, makes little sense. If I have milk in my fridge I am not going to go abroad to buy milk.
We need to develop a policy that limits these types of ‘luxury’ imports and help reduce the demand on the US dollars we have available, which should be obtainable for more critical needs.