Fri | Aug 18, 2017

IMF conditionalities will be transferred to SBA

Published:Wednesday | October 26, 2016 | 10:00 AMMcPherse Thompson
State Minister for Finance and the Public Service, Fayval Williams.

Some of the conditionalities under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with Jamaica will be transferred to the standby agreement (SBA), the successor programme which the Government has agreed with the United States-based organisation.

Among those are the primary surplus of seven per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), the debt-to GDP targets of 96 per cent by the end of fiscal year 2019-20 and 60 per cent or less by fiscal year 2025-26, as well as the wage-to-GDP of nine per cent by 2018-19, according to State Minister for Finance and the Public Service, Fayval Williams.

She said Jamaica is expected to end fiscal year 2016/17 with the wage-to-GDP ratio at about 9.6 per cent.

Referring to the targets and objectives under the SBA, Williams, who was assigned responsibility for ensuring the IMF programme remains on track, also said "we have to do that while we are transforming the public sector to be more efficient and delivery focused".

ON EDGE

Public-sector workers have been on edge about job losses under the public-sector transformation programme, a situation Prime Minister Andrew Holness hinted at recently.

Addressing a forum at the University of the West Indies last week on expectations of public-sector workers after March 2017, the state minister cited examples to show that transformation and modernization have in the past been carried out in sections of the public sector.

Referring to the chaos that existed at the Registrar General's Department (RGD) in Spanish Town, St Catherine, in the 1970s for example, but which years later was reorganised under the Public Sector Modernization Programme and designated an executive agency, Williams said:

"I use the example as a part of government that has trans-formed to become more efficient, but also to get public-sector workers to bear in mind that when they hear the word efficiency and transformation, (they should) open their minds to the opportunities that could exist."

The state minister said that between 2008 and 2015 the RGD reported that they received more than 500,000 online applications and had it not been transformed and embraced technology it would have locked itself out of somewhere in the region of $2.5 billion in revenues.

Williams said that although she did not know the numbers, "I would wager a bet that at the RGD today there are more persons employed than it did back in the 1970s,ecause it has expanded the range of services and opportunities."

She added: "And that is the message that we would like for the public sector to embrace when we talk about modern-ization (and) increasing efficiency."

STRUCTURAL BENCHMARKS

She also cited the example of the divestment of the Kingston Container Terminal, where about 800 workers who were hitherto employed by the State no longer work for the Government but for the private operators, who have also taken on additional staff.

One of the structural bench-marks under the EFF was that the authorities would submit to Cabinet an action plan for public-sector transformation by the end of September 2016.

In particular, it would include detailed timelines for the introduction of shared corporate services for communications and human resource management and the merger, abolition and/or divestment/privatization of entities. The plan was also expected to outline specific areas where efficiency gains can be made.

According to the August 2016 memorandum of economic and financial policies submitted to the IMF, the Government has signed new wage agreements for the two-year period after March 2015 with 97 per cent of public-sector employees. Discussions for the period starting April 2017 will begin by November 2016 and are expected to conclude before April 1, 2017.

Informed by the compen-sation review to be completed by December 2016, the Government's goal is to achieve a wage bill of nine per cent of GDP in fiscal year 2018/19, and to firmly maintain the ratio of public debt-to-GDP on a downward path over the medium term.

The memorandum said that in order to achieve that objective, the Government will continue to reduce the size of the public sector through the elimination of posts and by putting in place a clear attrition rule, subject to the capacity needs in a limited number of priority areas.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com