Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Clarke urges deeper, better communication from BOJ

Published:Sunday | September 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
The Bank of Jamaica building in downtown Kingston
Dr Nigel Clarke, Minister of Finance and the Public Service
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Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke has urged the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) to increase its communication channels, including utilising social media such as Twitter to counter misinformation.

Clarke's advice was made in the context of the government's intention to legislate the operational independence of the BOJ from the Ministry of Finance, saying that he wants "broader, deeper, and better communication" from the central bank.

"Even the Queen at Buckingham Palace tweets when they have relevant information to get out. Our palace here at the BOJ does not even have a Twitter account,"the minister told participants at a public forum titled 'Stable Dollar, Stable Prices", with conversations about the BOJ's independence produced by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) at the Terra Nova Hotel, St Andrew, last Thursday.

Currently, the BOJ does not have a Twitter account, unlike the Ministry of Finance and the minister himself.

In October, the government is expected to take legislation to Parliament with a series of reforms to make the BOJ operationally independent by insulating its monetary policy role from political pressure.

"Let me tell you one thing, under an independent central bank, they are going to have all the social media platforms and will be constantly communicating with the Jamaican people," said Clarke, adding that it is an idea he has already discussed with personnel at the bank."The central bank needs to have communication saturated in order to ensure that misinformation is not metastasised."

His advice also comes within the context of the government and technocrats' intention to convey a new narrative that the inflation rate rather than the foreign exchange rate holds paramount importance in the Jamaican economy. But stakeholders, including manufacturers and analysts, have scoffed at the message while complaining about the continued depreciation of the Jamaica dollar vis-·-vis the United States dollar. During the summer months, especially July and August, the currency depreciated some eight per cent against the US dollar.

"Over the summer, there was a lot of misinformation," said Clarke, noting that the recent spate of depreciation led to increased anxiety.

The minister's advice was welcomed by BOJ Governor Brian Wynter who indicated that the bank would be taking on the challenge to use social media as a communication channel.

Dr Damian King, executive director of CAPRI, and Dr Uma Ramakrishnan, International Monetary Fund mission chief to Jamaica, both agree that inflation targeting now anchors prices in the economy rather than the exchange rate.

"Inflation targeting is the right framework to bring more investments, more growth and long-term macroeconomic stability,"said Ramakrishnan.

steven-jackson@gleanerjm.com