Mon | Sep 25, 2017

IMF rep says Brand Jamaica under-leveraged

Published:Sunday | May 28, 2017 | 5:57 PM
Dr Lonkeng Ngouana

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative, Dr Lonkeng Ngouana, says Brand Jamaica is ' under-leveraged' due to the high crime rate.

In delivering the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean's (UCC) Distinguished Lecture last week, Ngouana argued that Jamaica should have gained significantly more from the outstanding performance of its athletes at global events.

“The strength of the Jamaican brand around the world should be generating even more visitors, although (the number) is already high,” Dr Lonkeng Ngouana stated.

The IMF resident representative suggested that security concerns were among the factors hindering the greater leveraging of Jamaica’s brand and which is partially responsible for many tourists not willing to venture beyond all-inclusive resorts to sample the country’s cultural offerings. 

However, he noted that Government was addressing this problem by renewing focus on citizen security – one of four pillars to achieve economic growth and jobs. The other pillars are public sector transformation, social inclusion and modernisation of the central bank to better manage inflation.

Ngouana, who was speaking on the topic: “Jamaica and the IMF", said that having successfully completed the three-year Extended Fund Facility agreement with the Fund, the country is now building on the macro-economic stability that had been achieved.

This included an unprecedented reduction in public debt, a sizable reduction in inflation, and more than doubling of the Net International Reserves to US$2.5 billion.

Jamaica, the IMF official stated, was now in the position to leverage the gains of the debt reduction by borrowing at relatively low interest rates in international markets.

He, however, identified high unemployment, especially among the youth; and the tilting of government spending towards wage-related expenses and interest payment on debt as challenges that the government is addressing.

Responding to a question from the audience, the IMF official said Government’s decision to redirect taxation on consumption rather than income would incentivise people to move out of the informal economy.

He noted that the measurement of consumption, for example, through the Survey of Living Condition by STATIN gives a clearer picture of the impact of economic activities.