Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Follow Jamaica's example to achieve macroeconomic stability - Phillips

Published:Thursday | January 26, 2017 | 1:06 PMNeville Graham
Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Dr. Peter Phillips

Opposition Spokesman on Finance Dr. Peter Phillips is urging other Caribbean countries to follow the Jamaican example so the region can embark on the path to achieve macroeconomic stability.

He says the region is yet to rid itself of the effects of the 2008/09 global crisis, noting that it highlighted the economic fragility of Caribbean states, their vulnerability to external shocks and the overarching limitations of the development strategies pursued. 

Dr. Phillips said that has left them unable to overcome the negative effects and a return to sustained economic growth.

Speaking at the 12th annual investment and capital markets conference of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, Dr. Phillips urged Caribbean nations to examine Jamaica’s model for recovery.

“In many respects Jamaica was a microcosm reflecting this wider Caribbean reality," he said. "To that extent the solutions sought and found by Jamaica would be relevant for the wider Caribbean,” he added.

Dr. Phillips, who as Finance Minister between 2012 and February 2016 pursued reforms under the International Monetary Fund programme, noted Jamaica’s initiatives which are now bearing fruit. Among them were an elimination of the budget deficit, debt reduction, tax reform and legislative reform that facilitates the business environment.

He says the reforms have resulted in a steady decline in debt levels, growth that is gathering momentum and declining unemployment.  

Dr. Phillips says Jamaica’s accomplishments were reflective of leadership at a variety of levels, including the private sector, trade unions and civil society.

“The essential point to note was not the making of difficult choices. Rather, it was the willingness of all groups to collaborate and to cede some of their specific sectional interests on behalf of the national priorities for survival,” Dr. Phillips said.

He is calling for a new vision to move forward to a future of greater wealth and empowerment for the Caribbean people. In addition to fiscal consolidation and structural reforms, Dr Phillips says the most crucial factor is how to enable small countries of the Caribbean to augment their scale by collaborating with each other, urging leaders to look beyond the region.

“In this regard, there are some critical issues to take into account. To achieve significant scale in economic terms, Caribbean cooperation will need to extend beyond the confines of CARICOM,” he said, arguing that there was the need to actively integrate the Dominican Republic and Haiti to a greater degree, as well as some Latin American countries bordering on the Caribbean. 

“This will encourage diversification of the productive base of our own economies. It would encourage foreign direct investment and investment flows between the partners,” Dr. Phillips said.

He also urged the JSE to explore the possibilities of allowing companies from those jurisdictions to list in the local market, adding that many Jamaican companies are already operating in those jurisdictions. 

- neville.graham@glanerjm.com