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Byles may be stepping down as EPOC co-chair

Published:Friday | November 18, 2016 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson
EPOC co-chair Richard Byles

The government said it remains committed to the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) monitoring the successor International Monetary Fund (IMF) standby arrangement and will be meeting with members to determine the way forward.

It comes amid reports that Richard Byles is considering giving up the role of co-chair.

State Minister for Finance Fayval Williams told the Financial Gleaner on Thursday that they intend to meet with the co-chairs, Byles and Bank of Jamaica Governor Brian Wynter, "because I think it's proper to sit with them to look at the differences and the similarities of both programmes and to understand what EPOC and its members would like to do, and their approach going forward".

She noted that under the extended fund facility there was a quarterly assessment, while under the standby agreement it will be undertaken on a semi-annual basis. "So we would like to sit down as soon as possible, so on both sides there can be a clear understanding as to how EPOC" will operate going forward.

EPOC was established by the People's National Party government to monitor the four-year Extended Fund Facility, which has now been replaced with a three-year standby arrangement.

The IMF is of the view that monitoring of the new arrangement will continue.

"We have heard that oversight will continue but in what shape or form is something that Jamaica should decide and we await information in this regard. We understand that discussions are ongoing and we hope to hear something, hopefully soon," IMF Mission Chief to Jamaica, Uma Ramakrishnan, told a briefing at the Bank of Jamaica via videoconference from Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

Byles, whose private sector job is president and CEO of Sagicor Group Jamaica, told a briefing in Kingston last week that EPOC was specifically formed to oversee the implementation of the Extended Fund Facility, and with a positive 14th review, the committee could be regarded as having successfully performed its role to provide transparency and objectivity to the execution of that programme.

Despite the Government's intention to retain EPOC, however, the Financial Gleaner understands Byles will be stepping down as co-chair, but might remain a member of the committee.

The committee is expected to monitor the fiscal side of the standby arrangement, as well as public sector reform.

IMF Resident Representative in Jamaica, Dr Constant Lonkeng Ngouana, said the Fund would continue the type of monitoring that it had under the Extended Fund Facility in terms of reviews, except that it will now be on a semi-annual basis rather than quarterly.

He noted that the IMF still has targets and structural benchmarks under the standby arrangement, as was the case under the extended fund facility.