Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Brand Jamaica is severely under-leveraged - IMF Rep

Published:Monday | May 29, 2017 | 5:00 AM

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative Dr Constant Lonkeng Ngouana says Jamaica should be reaping more economic benefits from the strength of the country's brand, which he has described as being "severely underleveraged".

"The strength of the Jamaican brand around the world should be generating even more visitors, although (the number) is already high," Lonkeng Ngouana stated. He was delivering the Distinguished Lecture hosted last Thursday by the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) in Kingston.

Pointing to the outstanding performances by Jamaican athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics, which was seen globally by millions of television viewers, the IMF official argued that the country had a great opportunity to market its products to other countries. "To leverage that brand, your goods have to be found in shops (in countries where people easily recognise) the Jamaican flag," Lonkeng Ngoauna told the gathering of UCC students, staff and guests.

The IMF resident representative suggested that security concerns were among the factors hindering the greater leveraging of Jamaica's brand and which partially caused many tourists not to venture beyond all-inclusive resorts to sample the country's cultural offerings. However, he noted that the Government was addressing this problem through a renewed 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.

MACROECONOMIC STABILITY

Lonkeng Ngouana, who was speaking on the topic 'Jamaica and the IMF', said having successfully completed the three-year extended fund facility agreement with the Fund, the country now needed to build on the macroeconomic 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 identified some remaining challenges, including high unemployment, especially among youth; and the tilting of government spending towards wage-related expenses and interest payment on debt.