Ja still on track
Economic performance consistent with IMF programme despite drought
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
The prevailing drought conditions have spurred the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to make what it characterised as temporary adjustments to its expectations of Jamaica's performance, even as it signalled that the country is well set to pass its fifth consecutive IMF test, since it hammered out the latest Extended Fund Facility.
"The recent drought will temporarily eat in the recent growths and raise food price inflation, and we have adjusted our projections accordingly," said Jan Kees Martijn, IMF mission chief for Jamaica, at a press conference ahead of his departure from the island yesterday.
Martijn noted that under the Government's policy programme, the current account had steadily strengthened with the net international reserves increasing to US$2.2 billion in July, with gross reserves standing at US$2.8 million.
After the thumbs up by the IMF mission chief, the board is scheduled to give its stamp of approval by next month after which Jamaica will be able to draw down US$71 million in Special Drawing Rights.
Speaking on the conclusion of the fifth review of the programme, Martijn disclosed that Jamaica's programme remained on track. He said Jamaica's economic outlook continued to improve with activities expanding in the region of 1.2 per cent between April and June 20014.
"Overall policy implementation under the programme remains strong," said Martijn. "All quantitative performance indicative targets and structural benchmarks for June were met."
Martijn said the IMF mission had reached preliminary understandings with the authorities on economic policies, detailed in updated letters of intent.
CONSISTENT AND PROGRESSIVE
For his part, Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips noted that economic performance has been consistent with the programme and structural reforms continued to progress.
"Fiscal performance continues to support the debt reduction objective, the external accounts are improving, and economic growth is continuing, accompanied by steady growth in employment," said Phillips.
Like Martijn, Phillips pointed to the meeting of all quantitative fiscal and monetary performance criteria under the programme. He highlighted that the Government had also implemented all the structural benchmarks.
"The Government and fund staff concurred that boosting growth requires steadfast implementation of the fiscal and other structural reforms," said Phillips. "These reforms, along with the implementation of major catalytic projects are important to boosting consumer confidence," he added.