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Peter’s fillip - Obama gives finance minister ammunition to press international bodies to tweak economic programme

Published:Sunday | April 12, 2015 | 4:00 AMArthur Hall
President of the United States Barack Obama addressing a youth forum at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus last Thursday.
Phillips
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Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, armed with a strong endorsement of Jamaica's economic programme by the world's most powerful man, United States President Barack Obama, heads to Washington today for the spring meetings of the multinational agencies to press for a tweak to create more room for growth.

"The positive that I see from President Obama's message is that we need adjustments to the programme to find growth capital to crank up growth," Phillips told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday on the eve of his departure to Washington, where he will co-chair discussions on the peculiar challenges in Caribbean countries at a meeting of the G20 Development Working Group.

"President Obama's presence in Jamaica and his remarks show that our performance has been noticed and indicate that the US would be willing to assist," added Phillips.

Obama had used his visit to the island last week to commend the Government for maintaining strong fiscal discipline under the current International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.

"I think that the current Government has been wise to work hard to abide by the IMF provisions. That's not been easy, but I think that's been the right thing to do," said Obama as he responded during a town hall meeting at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies.

According to Obama, during bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, focus was placed on the importance of growth in the economy even under the austerity measures.

"The best way for a country to reduce its debt is to grow really fast and generate more income. That will require development plans and approaches that are productive, but which also require some short-term sacrifice," added Obama, as he argued that the Government should stick to its targets.

That was good news for Phillips but came as no surprise.

"The US has been very supportive along the way and that has included using its influence to get the IMF programme in the first place," said Phillips.

He said during the bilateral talks with Obama it was accepted that there is a challenge with the economic reform programme and the rate of growth.

"There is a need for significant resources, but the comments of the president has opened the doors for more bilateral talks on terms to facilitate greater investments and to influence others to follow through," Phillips told The Sunday Gleaner.

Phillips is expected to continue these talks with officials of the US Treasury during his visit to North America this week, with a hope that the message of Obama in Kingston will open doors and growth opportunities in Washington.

Financial Secretary Devon Rowe, Bank of Jamaica Governor Brian Wynter, and head of the Planning Institute of Jamaica Collin Bullock will also make the trip.

The IMF/IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) spring meetings provide a forum for discussions among governors of central banks, high-level authorities of member countries, representatives of multilateral financial institutions, development agencies, investment banks, and commercial interests.