Thu | Apr 22, 2021

Finance minister pushes for fiscal commission

Published:Wednesday | January 13, 2021 | 12:21 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke.
Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke.

Debate on a proposed new law to establish a fiscal commission to do independent analysis and give opinions and presentations on the country’s finances got under way yesterday, with Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke insisting that the country will reap benefits from its establishment.

Clarke said that some of the fiscal oversight functions carried out by the Auditor General’s Department would be shifted to the proposed commission.

The functions are expected to be expanded, too.

“The independent fiscal commission will be a commission that will be exclusively dedicated to being the guardian, the interpreter and arbiter of Jamaica’s fiscal rules,” the finance minister told the House of Representatives yesterday at its first sitting for the new calendar year.

“It will monitor compliance of Jamaica’s fiscal rules. It will keep the public informed on economic matters, according to a scheduled calendar, and it will provide independent analysis on fiscal policy development,” Clarke outlined.

He said the commission would be credible and long-lasting.

In fact, the commission could be a creature of Parliament, as proposed.

“We have fiscal rules, but laws alone do not assure us of fiscal responsibility into the future. We need institutions, too,” Clarke stated.

The finance minister was, however, careful to underscore that the fiscal commission does not have any power to make policy, overriding the function of the elected representatives.

The commission will be tasked to produce new economic and assessment reports on the statement of fiscal performance on June 30 and December 30 and will entail, inter alia, whether the Government is abiding by fiscal rules and sticking to targets.

“Importantly, this report also makes an assessment of the medium- and long-term debt sustainability, providing sensitivity to the movement of underlining variables,” Clarke explained.

Debt suitability analysis over the past few years was a function carried out by the International Monetary Fund.

The bill proposes the establishment of a fiscal commissioner, which is to be appointed by the governor general, acting on the advice of the prime minister after consultation with leader of the Opposition.

The commissioner will have a tenure of seven years.

The bill was developed with contributions from a number of Canadian stakeholders and the Inter-American Development Bank.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com