Time is literally money – Jamaica Observer

There is a direct link between the management of our time and the prices we pay for goods and services.

About a year ago I made a routine visit to one of our JN Bank branches in East Jamaica. While there, I came across an intervention by three senior executives of JN Bank who were graciously trying to convince a JN member, who was insisting on doing a transaction at the counter, to use one of our Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) smart inside our JN Zone Xpress.

They tried to tell him that the ATM was a much faster and more convenient way to complete his transaction. But it didn’t matter to him that there were only a few people in the Xpress area and that the ATMs weren’t being used by other people at the moment, compared to the 15 or more people queuing for perform their transactions at the cashier.

Luckily, she was eventually convinced and started using the smart ATM with little help from our branch representatives. In no time she was out and on her way, I guessed, to work.

Considering the time it took her to get to the agency and the time she spent queuing there, my own estimate is that she could have lost at least one or two hours out of an eight-hour workday, and she could have wasted more time had she continued to queue to complete her transaction, which could have been completed in less than five minutes at an ATM or even in line.

I shared this story to highlight the connection many of us don’t easily make on a daily basis between managing our time and the prices we pay for goods and services.

Consider the productive time saved by not having to join a line during work hours to complete banking transactions. Online banking eliminates the need to travel to a physical location to complete a transaction, just as choosing to complete the transaction at a smart ATM means less time spent waiting for someone to complete the transaction for you.

Similarly, it is possible to save time by paying taxes, fees or fines online instead of waiting for hours at the tax office or by sending a photo and a message via WhatsApp to your local hardware store or drugstore to confirm they have the item you need instead of going there only to find they don’t have exactly what you need.

For many Jamaicans who transact business in the traditional way by visiting a place or standing in line, this requires the use of a significant number of productive hours and other resources.

First, it starts with taking public transport or driving there, burning imported fuel, adding to the country’s import bill and degrading the environment. Also, it takes time to get there and then more time is spent queuing, sometimes up to three hours, to transact and then get to the next destination.

Compare that to someone living in North America who can spend a few minutes doing the same business transactions using an online platform from the comfort of where they are.

There is no wasted time traveling or waiting in line, saving the customer and the company valuable hours that can be invested in production or innovation to produce more of goods and services and, at the same time, reduce the need for imports.

The relationship between the availability of goods and services and the level of money supply is often cited as a major determinant of inflation, which impacts the relative value (the exchange rate) of a country’s currency.

Simply put, if there is not enough production, there will be few goods available to spend on, which undermines the value of the dollar because the supply of money will be greater than the number of goods available. Therefore, when productivity is low, the local currency is likely to be weak.

The Jamaican dollar has depreciated around 76% against the US dollar over the past 10 years – from $87.28 to US$1.00 in March 2012 to around $153.00 to $1.00 US in 2022 – and by more than 200% over the past 20 years. — $48.51: US$1.00 in January 2002.

Currency depreciation can increase the price of goods and services as traders often pass on the increased costs incurred due to the deterioration of the exchange rate.

While the current wave of external shocks, precipitated by the novel coronavirus pandemic over the past two years and now by the Russian-Ukrainian war, have exponentially increased commodity prices, especially food and oil, the current situation should make us understand the need to improve our productivity.

It is our productivity and innovation that will help cushion the blow of external shocks such as these, shield us from the impact of rising prices, and protect the value of the Jamaican dollar, as they will reduce our need for import certain basic goods and services. .

Adopting and adapting to more efficient ways of doing business is therefore essential not only for companies, but also for every citizen of a country if the entire nation is to grow sustainably and become resilient. In other words, production requires the participation, not only of some, but of all.

However, even as we look to digitalization to create more opportunities for increased productivity and innovation, infrastructural limitations cannot be overlooked and must be addressed. Simply, if there is no internet or unreliable services, people cannot be expected to do business as efficiently as their counterparts in the United States, Canada or any other countries where access is a priority.

The pandemic of the past two years has been a touchstone for the quality of locally provided internet services.

The divide he has highlighted, even within the corporate area, but especially outside of what is known as the Kingston metropolitan area – Kingston, St Andrew, Portmore and Spanish Town – has been evident and deleterious as students have lost hundreds of teaching and learning hours due to the unavailability or unreliability of broadband services in rural Jamaica.

The point I am making is not new and, intuitively enough, it was made by Dr Ransford Davidson, who manages our JN Bank operations in Brown’s Town and St Ann’s Bay, just two weeks before the pandemic was declared and the subsequent discovery of the first Jamaican case.

Speaking at the All Island Chamber of Commerce luncheon in February 2020 in St Mary’s, he argued that our rural areas need reliable broadband to enable businesses and citizens to actualize their potential . More than others, citizens in our rural areas are likely to spend more time commuting to access basic services due to distance, road conditions and unreliable public transport, causing them to lose more productive time. Consequently, their access to Internet services cannot continue to be based solely on decisions taken solely by private actors. Instead, a policy should be implemented to promote equity in access to services.

The effort to introduce community hotspots through the Universal Service Fund is admirable, but the digitization revolution is moving much faster and therefore requires much more impactful actions from the state.

Combined with a drive to improve digital literacy, we all need to address this aspect of development now, because our next 60+ years as a nation depend on it.

Curtis Martin is the managing director of JN Bank.