IMF programme turning youths into criminals - Derrick Smith
Opposition Spokesman on National Security Derrick Smith says the hardships being faced by Jamaicans as a result of the current extended fund facility with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may be fuelling crime levels on the island.
Smith, a former national security minister, while making his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, said the austere programme is driving people over the edge.
Arguing that boys 13-17 years old are turning to crime and violence, Smith, the member of parliament for North West St Andrew, said girls are also turning to prostitution, becoming victims of trafficking in persons and various types of lewd activities in order to make a living,
"I have no doubt that a lot of this [crime] is the result of the increasingly high levels of unemployment affecting the parents, and the lack of opportunities and the loss of hope which has resulted from the austerity that is being heaped on the people under the current extended fund facility agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)," Smith said.
Huge social costs
Jamaica is in the second year of a four-year programme which is centred on running what the IMF describes as an ambitious primary surplus target, at 7.5 per cent of GDP over the life of the programme.
The Government has passed all quarterly reviews done by the Fund thus far, but Smith said this is coming at huge social costs.
"The Government loves to boast that it is doing the right thing by following a course of austerity and demanding more and more sacrifices from the people, despite obvious signs that the people have already passed their limit," Smith said.
Meanwhile, the national security spokesman accused portfolio minister Peter Bunting of being unfair to the Opposition when he said it should "sincerely unite for change in the interest of the country".
According to Smith, Bunting "conveniently ignored the fact that the first offer the current leader of the Opposition made to the current prime minister, when he assumed the office of prime minister in October 2011, was to suggest that they walk together through the so-called garrison communities, as a symbolic gesture to show they are at one on fighting crime and violence in these communities".
Said Smith: "Look how far down of the road integrating these communities we could have been, if he had only said that to our current prime minister before she rejected the idea in 2011," Smith said.