KINGSTON, Jamaica – How can Jamaica get government, the private sector and citizens to work together to help promote economic growth, learning from other countries? The Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) and the Caribbean Council has undertaken a project on Social Partnership in Jamaica to help find out just that.
Social partnership is a way of bringing together key partners in a country’s development – government, workers and business – to make a step change in economic and social progress.
Examples of social partnership models can be found in various countries around the world, and usually include voluntary agreements between the Government, main employer groups and trade unions on issues surrounding pay and wages, tax, and welfare. In countries where such models have been implemented successfully, they have played a central role in economic strategies that have produced rapid and sustainable growth. It has worked very effectively for distant countries like Ireland, and nearer countries such as Barbados.
Over the past three months the Caribbean Policy and Research Institute (CaPRI) has researched how and why such a programme worked in Ireland and Barbados, but previously failed in Jamaica. It explored whether there were lessons to be learnt from the comparative analysis of these and other countries, and if a new social partnership was possible or even desirable for Jamaica.
The report (available at www.takingresponsibility.org and www.caribbean-council.org) outlines in detail how research support from Ireland brought in to assist in a series of consultations undertaken by CaPRI with many stakeholders in Jamaica including the Prime Minister Bruce Golding, the Leader of the Opposition Portia Simpson-Miller, members of the Cabinet, small and large business owners, members of the academic community, and trade unionists.
During the consultations, Paul Haran, the former Secretary-General of the Department of Enterprise who is credited with developing and implementing the partnership in Ireland that led to the increased economic growth that earned it the international title ‘Celtic Tiger’, shared his experiences in Ireland and outlined Ireland’s experience in areas identified by Jamaican interests as being of relevance to Jamaica. The visit was very successful, receiving widespread support from the majority of stakeholders.
The results of the research were clear.
Virtually all stakeholders agreed that a new social partnership is necessary if Jamaica is to rise to the challenges that it faces – including the prospect of economic and social crises.
The research indicates that the successful social partnerships of Ireland and Barbados were formed under similar circumstances.
And what are lessons coming from CaPRI’s research and discussions in Jamaica?
One is that a successful social partnership does not simply copy foreign models. It has to be home-grown with local ideas to meet local needs, with the full understanding that this will mean some sacrifices.
The research also indicates that a new and successful social partnership will require the unambiguous support and leadership from the Prime Minister and his government and a willingness of all others partners to engage in a productive dialogue.
Such a partnership, it was suggested, might find a home in a body similar to the National Economic and Social Council in Ireland, consisting of stakeholder representatives and a small number of permanent staff leading policy research. Popular during the consultations, the development of a similar body is one of the recommendations of the report.
Despite present difficulties, and perhaps even because of them, this research indicates that this may be a unique moment for Jamaicans to make social partnership work, and to say to government: We are ready. Let us now, together, sit down.
The Caribbean Council, led by David Jessop, has worked with CaPRI to put this project together. The project was supported by the UK Department for International Development, De La Rue and Virgin Atlantic.